It is certainly a much sought-after talent for a musician to calm a roomful of people after a couple of drinks, and it is a testament to Leo Stannard’s musicianship that he manages to achieve this feat. His voice is undoubtedly unassuming when contrasted with his appearance: a Charlie Puth look and vibe is thrown off by a deep and slightly hoarse voice similar to that of Ben Howard, whom Stannard seems to draw inspiration from. Couple this with his Jon Gomm-esque percussive and pinch harmonic littered guitar style, and Leo Stannard is clearly placed above the rest of his acoustic pop peers.
Billie Marten started writing songs around the age of nine, and when she was twelve, her parents started downloading clips of her singing online for her grandparents to see. Discovered by a record company, she released her first EP at the age of fifteen and has subsequently released an album, gone on tour, played at both festivals and the BBC. She is one of those people you’d put in the ‘annoyingly good at life’ category. The ones you are jealous of and who make you think to yourself ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind being a bit like them’. Annoyingly talented, that’s what she is. You are in equal measures annoyed and in awe, though.
Kaisa Saarinen interviews Glasgow Unity Centre in order to clear up some important misconceptions – and finds out what we can all do to help.
Good news doesn’t sell. This simple truth explains why the media is, and always has been, so eager to make the worst of everything. Most major media outlets have been happy to contribute to the ongoing mass hysteria about immigration in order to boost their sales. Several studies have been conducted on the topic of media portrayal of immigration, and they consistently show that the coverage in the UK is amongst the most negative in Europe, and that the continuous flow of fear-mongering headlines and images has a very real impact on its readers. We have all seen examples of this: people described as ‘illegal’, their movement as ‘invading’ or ‘flooding’.
The brand new polymer five-pound note has now entered circulation, claiming to be safer, cleaner and more durable than its predecessor. While its benefits have been proven to be measurably true, questions have arisen concerning the appointment of the note’s new figurehead- the face of former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. According to the Bank of England, their choice to commemorate Churchill is due in part to his role as an inspirational statesman, orator, leader, and Nobel Prize winner who led Britain to victory in the Second World War. Most of his achievements would undoubtedly cement his title as one of Britain’s greatest individuals; however, there are those who are less enamored by Churchill’s actions. Critics have insisted on laying bare his unsavoury and overlooked opinions on race, justice and imperial atrocities, imploring the nation to reevaluate the values we revere, and to take a more dispassionate view on our British heroes.
Artwork featuring kissing couples is almost endless – whether in fan art or Renaissance frescos, manifesta-tions of love are present. Art history is filled with this subject matter and often the background stories of the paintings can be even more enticing than the scenes they display.
William Dyce, Francesca da Rimini, 1837
The painting depicts lovers Francesca and Paolo from Dante’s epic poem, The Inferno, sharing an innocently tender moment in the moonlight. In the poem, Francesca is to be married off to the old and deformed Gianciotto, but she falls in love with his younger brother, Paolo. The picture includes some ominous elements to suggest the tragic fate of the lovers – for example, Gianciotto’s disembodied hand is still included in the edge of the canvas, although the figure himself has been trimmed off due to damage to the canvas. The kiss, in all its gentleness, cannot fend off the sinister atmosphere of the painting, which reflects the doomed love of the unfortunate couple.
Francesco Hayez, The Kiss, 1859
The medieval setting and the passionate embrace of the figures in Francesco Hayez’s painting evoke the feeling of that epic, grand love familiar to us from fairytales. There are certain things in the painting that sug-gest the scene to be a farewell – like the man wearing his hat; a foot already on the stair; and his lover gripping onto his shoulder, unwilling to let go. These elements add to the picture a slightly wistful atmosphere – yet at the same time they also enhance the depiction of a great, tragic love.
Jean-Leon Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea, 1890
This painting draws its inspiration from the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. According to the story, Pygmalion, the king of Cyprus, sculpted in his studio the perfect female figure and fell in love with her. His lovesickness for the sculpted woman was pitied by Aphrodite, who turned the ideal figure, Galatea, into a living being and presided over their marriage. The kiss is a representation of the desire to attain what seems to be bitter-sweetly beyond reach, and it can also be seen to convey the message of the irrationality and uncontrollable nature of love.
Marc Chagall, The Birthday, 1915
In this painting, the artist pictures himself giving a kiss to his wife on her birthday. The figures are free from the constraints of gravity, and the way Chagall turns to his wife to kiss her, his body twisted to the other direction and floating mid-air, conveys a feeling of surprise and spontaneity. The modernist streak in the style serves to emphasize the sentiment further and the experimental visual language translates to the playfulness of the portrayed scene.
Rene Magritte, The Lovers, 1928
One of Rene Magritte’s most iconic works, this picture portrays two lovers kissing, with their faces covered. The shrouded faces have been interpreted in a multitude of ways in art history — the cloth can be seen as a barrier forever separating the lovers and rendering their intimacy to isolation, or it can be read as a symbolic description of the distance that always exists between people. The shrouding of the figures’ faces certainly has an effect on the mood of the image. It is a mysterious, slightly sad and even a little terrifying depiction of what is usually thought to be the ultimate act of romance.
By Emmi Joensuu
Source: Lonely Label Lookbooks
We all know the fashion industry is big business. A huge yet skinny white arm of that is lingerie. It is worth over $110 billion dollars globally; people love frilly knickers. While we can’t get enough of matching sets, the industry as a whole has been pretty selective in what it wants. The both tall and sculpted-skinny babe with flowing locks enticing you into her bedroom has dominated campaigns.
The female form is beautiful. I’m a straight girl and I can understand the sex appeal of boobs and bums. So, surely embracing all kinds of bodies is even sexier? The modelling industry is founded upon beauty; I’m sorry but that’s just the reality of lifestyle advertising and branding. However, what is seriously an issue when it comes to lingerie is what that ‘beauty’ has been defined by: Heidi Klum, Elle Macpherson and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Don’t get me wrong; Rosie’s lingerie brand for M&S is one of the best on the market for the price range (I’m wearing a set right now) but what do these three women have in common? They are all tall, skinny, blonde models with legs for days and the shiniest hair known to Instagram.
I don’t want to undermine these women. They are powerhouses of the lingerie industry and I salute them for their business-savvy in creating lingerie empires. Nevertheless they shouldn’t be our sole definition of what is beautiful in a thong. While they are undoubtedly stunning, so are many other women.
New Zealand brand Lonely Label is fighting these stereotyped images within the world of lingerie. Their advertising campaigns feature armpit hair, a range of shapes and sizes and gasp black women. Fashion as a whole has been notoriously awful at representing people of colour but lingerie is by far one of the worst offenders of the fashion faux pas. The concept of ‘nude’ underwear in the West has always focussed on pinky-beige tones with the occasional murky pop at a darker tone. Nubian Skin is offering what they call a ‘different kind of nude’ to cater to the often-ignored women of colour: they make a variety of shades for lingerie and hosiery and are available from House of Fraser.
Source: Nubian Skin
Many lingerie brands are also now offering an entirely sexual experience for their audience. The sultry and luxurious Coco de Mer has everything from the French knicker to straps on and leather ball gags. They do a gag in a lovely ‘wine red’. Some of their dildos are actually artwork including the delightful Fornicouture Fuji Glass dildo and whip at a slight £900. There is also a dildo in a floral ceramic but that just conjures up too many memories of my Gran’s tea set. Coco de Mer UK’s Instagram currently has over 34,000 followers, people are embracing the fapp-worthy revolution of women’s lingerie.
Source: Coco de Mer
The industry has also come on in leaps and bounds in how it includes size. While I’m against the condescending phrase ‘body type’ – hello, you can’t just Dewey System our figures – long gone are the days where we were all measured as a 34B, no matter what. No longer are we all forcing our poor boobies into the wrong cups and backs. Better training and an encouragement to get your boobs regularly checked for size has meant that the industry has had to cater to our new demands.
Recently, co-founder of luxury British lingerie company Agent Provocateur and son to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, Joe Corré said that he would burn £5 million worth of his memorabilia in the protest of the mainstream’s adoption of punk culture. Agent Provocateur was founded on this punk attitude in 1994 in the hope of bringing sexual and fun lingerie to the masses. Although I’m not entirely sure what’s ‘punk rock’ about charging £195 for a thong, the sentiment was nice. Brands like these are bringing erotic lingerie to the masses with no shame attached. Want to wear nothing but your nipple pasties? Go for it gal, you’re liberated, no matter your booby or body size.
Let’s not demonise the gazelles of Victoria Secret and their media extravaganza every year. They are beautiful women and they make great lingerie models. They are athletic, lean and voluptuous all at the same time. However, the homogenisation of this industry has been damaging and is slowly being addressed.
It’s 2016 and we are (I hope) at a watershed in sexy lingerie in both the campaigning and what is on offer to us, the lowly non-Angels. Just because you’re not a size 6, white, blonde female, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the wonders of modern lingerie. Get your suspenders on or your M&S cotton briefs, the lingerie industry has grown up and so have you.
By Anne Devlin
What does it take to be chosen by the Scottish Women Football Association to be their main anthem’s songwriter?
How does it feel to compose, write and sing a song that represents women’s empowerment and struggle?
Most importantly, what is it like to be a woman nowadays, who plays football and the guitar just as well?
Sharon Martin talks power, talent and gender equality honestly, truly and openly – like only she can.
How did you get into music initially?
I always loved music but got into performing at the age of 16. I used to hang around with a bunch of grunge kids who would go to Riverside studios in Busby every Saturday to rehearse with their band. We’d all squeeze in the room and watch them perform. Got me thinking it was something that I wanted to do – so I did! I started my own Grunge band called ‘Corset’ – I was the singer and we’d do very bad covers of Nirvana, Hole and Placebo. Was a hoot! We fibbed about our age to get gigs in pubs in Glasgow. Very naughty…
Indeed, but it worked! You’ve been chosen to write the SFA’s anthem. Where is the intercept between music and football? And what does it mean for fans and players according to you?
Music plays a role in everything – it adds the emotive element. It’s a rush for fans to chant songs in the stands, encouraging and supporting their players. For players, it’s a rush to hear your fans supporting you through song.
I have played football most of my life- I am a former Glasgow City player. It has given me so much in terms of health, focus, friendship and confidence. I’ve met some of the most amazing, funny and inspiring people through football- so writing the Scottish Women’s Anthem for them seemed like the least I could do to give back.
What meaning does the song hold for you?
For me, the meaning is in the message. I believe that every human being is gifted – but so often these gifts aren’t used because a person’s potential isn’t encouraged and cultivated by their environment. I wanted to remind the girls and women of Scotland that greatness is in every one of them and self-belief is the key to releasing this. This isn’t an elitist song that is only for those with ambition to be world leaders, it applies to everyone – the woman in the Women’s Aid shelter with her kids, the kid getting bullied at school. It’s a reminder to hold tight because things will get better. It’s also of course a celebration of Scottish Women and a big shout out for gender equality – something that is very applicable to sport in this country.
You told me there would be a video too. Can you give us a bit of info about it?
The song is being used as part of an SFA campaign to encourage participation in Girls Football in this country. A video has been shot with the National Team players – this campaign kicks off in May. SWF (Scottish Women’s Football) have also shot a video with Purple TV to promote their support of the song’s message and to promote the Scottish Women’s League.
Amazing! How important is for girls, who enjoy football, to feel supported and encouraged?
It’s vital to support our female footballers. Scotland is such a progressive nation yet people don’t necessarily realize that there is such a disparity in support and opportunity between the men and women’s game. The media needs to get behind this cause- with public support comes the potential for commercial investment and thus, make the game more professional. They do it in other countries, why not here? Most of the girls and women work full-time jobs then train like athletes every evening – it is no doubt exhausting.
But it’s not just about supporting football for the sake of football. If we support our female athletes in the media, we create positive role models for our younger generation. Girls are bombarded with images of size zero models in beauty magazines; they should also see fit, healthy, strong women who are working hard and achieving. It gives them something better to aspire to, and to know that a females self esteem should not be derived from her sexual objectification. It also in turn, cultivates more positive gender attitudes amongst boys.
Couldn’t agree more! How important is gender equality not just in sports but overall?
It’s imperative for the future of our world. Equal rights and opportunity will create a more stable society. It is statistically proven that when women are empowered economically, more money goes to their children’s health and wellbeing. There is less debt and more investment in health, education and housing. The more women appointed in Government, the more democratic the country is. Women possess a great capacity for humility and compassion – wouldn’t this make them more inclined to seek peaceful resolve as opposed to starting and participating in wars? To me it’s a no brainer – we need each other, and we need to be on an equal footing. What man wouldn’t want a better future for his daughter and the women in his life?
What’s the future holding for the women in SFA? And for you, personally?
My hope is that women take up key positions within the SFA and are strongly involved in the decision-making processes. Decisions that impact the future of both the men’s and women’s game. I hope that the women’s game flourishes in this country and the girls are giving the credit they deserve for their athleticism, achievements and positive influence on the nation.
For me personally, I’ll just keep writing songs and getting behind the causes that I believe in. Many thanks for this interview.
Sharon Martin’s song, the SWF and SFA anthem Girl (Daugher of Scotland) is now available on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/girl-daughter-scotland-single/id1104656614
By Joanna Velikov
Dilyana Popova – Bulgarian Model/Actress
In Bulgaria, and other post-communist countries, depictions of sex did not exist for several decades. It was nowhere to be found – not in books, magazines, on TV, and not even in school. So where did sex disappear?
In the period 1944-1990, Bulgaria was under a socialist (or communist) regime, following the footsteps of ‘sister’ countries such as Russia and Ukraine. This is not in itself unusual, many countries throughout history have been under such regimes. Privately owned land was shared nationally, entrepreneurship was banned, blue jeans were labelled ‘devil’s attire’ and Rolling Stones became the symbol of hellish Western capitalism – a communist’s worst nightmare.
Still, things were kind of normal – I guess – and people were living their lives. But something was missing. Sex. Sex was non-existent. Sex was shameful. No one talked about it – ever. It was like babies magically grew on trees, were brought in by a massive stork or produced by the party. This suggestions seem ludicrous and yet no one asked any questions. Or did they?
I grew up in post-communist Bulgaria in the 2000s and sex was everywhere. My parents and their parents saw a different story though. Or should I say: they saw nothing of it. In my family, sex was never a taboo, and I’m glad I was brought up to be comfortable with my body and sexuality. I thought the most appropriate people to ask about the utter lack of sex in communist times were my parents. Skype-ing over a bottle of wine, they opened up to me and told me exactly how it felt to live a life without sex.
Was sex really absent from everywhere?
Both replied ‘yep’. It definitely was absent. No books, no movies, no pictures in magazines. The only time my dad saw something sexual was when his friend showed him some (very naughty) naked pictures he stole from his house. My mom said she’d never seen anything sexual until she was intimate with a boy herself – the only exception being when her best friend took a copy of The Thorn Birds so that they could read the part where Meghann and Father Ralph got it on…
Ridiculous! So how did this affect you as you were growing up? Did you seek sexual expression? Could you speak to your parents?
‘No way,’ says my Mom. ‘I have never had a sexual conversation with anyone, not even my friends. We were extremely curious but too shy to ever mention it. During the political regime, combined with the Bulgarian patriarch tradition, we were brought up to believe sex was a shameful and disgraceful act. This made me very insecure about my body and some of my girlfriends had children quite young – only because they had no idea what to do. I didn’t have a clue either. I felt my female sexuality was suppressed, or non-existent at all. I wished my mother or cousin would talk to be about sex. I’d probably be more comfortable with myself as an adult.’
Dad agrees, but adds: ‘I was quite sexual as a child and when I got into adolescence, me and my friends were always talking about sex. We mostly lied about having kissed a girl or grabbed someone’s butt. We were stupid boys! We’d always look to see a girl spreading her legs or touching her hip. And then we would feel extremely ashamed. Once I tried to talk to my mother about having a sexual dream, it was super awkward, she said “Just talk to your dad!”. It took him two days to come and talk to me and the whole talk consisted of “It’s fine, son” and a friendly slap on the neck. Sweet.’
To sum things up, sex was bad, nasty, immoral and definitely not in line with the party’s ideology.
‘We were told that touching yourself is extremely unhealthy and bad for you. The government was issuing these booklets with propaganda against masturbation, filled with “expert” advice telling you that masturbating leads to mental disorders and homosexuality. This is hard to believe now, but imagine what a 14-year-old thinks when they read this’ my Dad said. ’We were made to believe that our bodies and sexual desires are filthy and wrong. The doctors would tell us – if you have a hard on, get down and do 20 push-ups until it goes away! Good luck with that….’’
And yet, the people up the Communist party hierarchy were having lots of sex with the best women.
‘Everyone knew that the party leaders and people in the government had many mistresses’ my Mom explained. ’They weren’t even hiding it! But they insisted on telling us that having sex, even talking about sex, is bad. This was shocking, extremely disgusting and it just shows everything that communism stands for – double morale and lies, lies, lies.’
Communism put sex in a box and put it away from everyone. But it was secretly opening up this box when no one was watching. This resulted in generations of people, ashamed to be sexually satisfied, left thinking that their intimate desires and thoughts are wrong. Worst of all, they were forced to believe that suppressing your sexuality is a good thing and appreciating it will make you mentally unstable or sick. Many girls had children without wanting to; many boys became sexually aggressive; many men had to stay in loveless marriages, scared to admit their homosexuality. All of this happened while the minister was shagging his mistress in his villa on the beach.
By Yoana Velikova
Eyes blur. Tension is unbearable. Breath is out of control. Pain, pleasure, agony, and release.
No, I am not having sex. I am trying to accomplish the camel pose of bikram yoga.
Health is the obsession of our time: the next diet and exercise trend always claiming to be better than the last. In the eighties spandex-clad individuals crowded in front of their TVs and clenched their buttocks in unison to the sounds of synth-pop (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deKHYCsjseg). A decade ago, there was the cardio craze, which had thousands of middle-aged men take to cycling, swimming and long distance running – all intent on completing a new triathlon each weekend. Lately, there have popped up a number of refurbished industrial buildings where people stand in stripped-down rooms, lift enormous tractor tires and wield sledgehammers in order to buff up.
Female weightlifters and skinny men in lycra are breaking gender norms, but body dimorphic disorder (BDD) has never been more prevalent as it is today. According to a 2015 report by Beat (https://www.b-eat.co.uk/assets/000/000/302/The_costs_of_eating_disorders_Final_original.pdf?1424694814) there are 725 000 people suffering from eating disorders in the UK, which is a 7% yearly increase since 2009. This is not just a physical and psychological burden for the patient, but it also takes an immense emotional toll on the carers and has a severe financial impact on the NHS and UK’s economy. Not to mention that it is the one mental health issue today most common to end in fatality.
That is why I wish to address a different change in the health community: the turn towards mindfulness. Recent studies in cognitive behavioural therapy have shown that mindfulness can be effective when treating anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, as well as depression, stress and anxiety. Bikram yoga is just one example of how to exercise mindfulness. The 90-minute class consists of 26 different poses and two breathing exercises, which take place in a room heated to 40 degrees. The aim is to work every single part of the human body to achieve optimum health and function.
Don’t get me wrong. I was definitely a sceptic too. Standing in a hot room, dripping of sweat and attempting to breathe slowly did not seem like my type of exercise. In fact, it did not seem like exercise at all. I was used to running far and fast, lifting heavy weights and swinging kettle bells in quick succession. I wanted to burn fat, build muscle and tone my body to perfection. I did not see the value of relaxation and meditation.
Time devoted for relaxation has become another stress factor for students today. It is not enough to achieve straight-As. You need to have a part-time job to pay the bills. You need to do an unpaid internship to forward your career. You need to apply for postgraduate study with the aching knowledge that you are slowly losing control of your future. Simultaneously, you need to prove that you have a social life (don’t even get me started on Tinder…) and party with your friends, while maintaining a healthy diet and visiting the gym regularly to feel good about your exterior.
Bikram yoga is certainly not exempt from the stress and the weight-losing obsession that stalks gyms today. Like in any female locker room, you will find women in yoga studios that pinch their love handles, stare at the mirror and sigh at their static kilos of pudginess – ‘Who’s the (fattest) of them all?’. There seems to be an awkward silence in the yoga community about people with body dysmorphia. The yoga ideal that adorns magazine covers, Instagram accounts and Youtube videos holds the promise of a skinny but anorexic body. Healthy eating that accompany yoga narratives, such as juice cleanses, gluten-free vegan diets and fruity smoothies, all propagate a certain life style that may disguise a person’s eating disorders. In their May 2015 issue, Yoga Magazine even featured an ancient yoga technique called Vyaghra kriyā (vomiting in order to cleanse your body), which becomes another way of rationalising bulimic practice.
Bikram yoga might not be for everyone. And the first five classes were not exactly my cup of tea. With sweat running in every crease of your being, the fat bulging in awkward places and constantly falling down during balance poses, it is difficult to accept and celebrate your body. I came out feeling depressed about my ‘extra kilos’ and exhausted from the heat. I began to despise the loud and happy chatter of the thin, flexible women proudly sporting their tight bras and mini shorts. Everything just seemed too perfect.
The yoga community needs to start admitting their responsibility in inspiring unhealthy food habits and obsessive exercise. Yet not all hope is lost. My yoga centre features flyers from Glasgow Centre for Eating Disorder, which encourages yogis in need to seek help (http://www.glasgow-eating-disorders.co.uk/). The classes focus on clearing the mind from stress. Newcomers are warmly applauded for just staying in the room throughout the class. On the Internet, there are new and encouraging narratives from yogis of all sizes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448 and https://www.instagram.com/biggalyoga/?hl=en).
So perhaps it is not your body that needs to change, but the way you think about your body. From a young age, girls are complimented for being pretty and boys are complimented for being cool. It is no wonder that girls learn to measure their self-worth from their looks and not from their smarts. Next time, instead of telling your friends they look skinny and beautiful, tell them they look happy and confident. Instead of staring at the number on the scale, think about how well you accomplished a certain yoga pose. Congratulate yourself on the progress you make, not on losing kilos or sculpting your body, but on mastering a certain pose or controlling your breath.
As the feeling of yoga mastery slowly came to me, I started to notice new things in my class. Surrounding me were people of all ages, all sizes, both genders and different origins. Some were beginners, some were experts, but everyone was struggling with their own personal issues. The instructors were smiling and positive, not because they seek perfection, but because they enjoy the feeling of community: the feeling of everyone working together. I began to accept that I would turn into a human waterfall. I started to enjoy having 90 uninterrupted makeup-free minutes for myself. Afterwards, when the sweating subsides, I can rest in the afterglow of knowing when to let go.
By Sofia Lindén
Photo from Read: Tidal online
Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, knows she can take Glasgow’s 02 ABC by storm. The 27 year old from Vancouver is upbeat and confident from the get-go, as she plunges the audience into her unique and addictive brand of powerful and ethereal electropop.
One thing that characterises Grimes is that her gigs aren’t just about her – the show is a team effort, and it abounds with personality as a result. She is joined onstage by support act Hana, whose own distinctive voice and style allow her to slot seamlessly into that badass “Girl Gang” vibe that Grimes likes to project. The two backing dancers are every bit as central to the performance as Grimes herself, and they skilfully work the spotlight for much of the show. The sheer uncontained force and energy of their movement is captivating and infectious. Grimes herself really knows how to command the stage, purely by virtue of being so impossibly energetic. Her onstage chat is also delightful – too hyperactive to beat about the bush when it comes to introducing songs, she cheerfully propels the set from one song to the next without letting the energy drop for an instant.
The newer material gels well with the old; defying claims that Grimes’ newest release, the distinctly pop-ier ‘Art Angels’, was too far a departure from the more experimental, electronic sound of ‘Visions. In fact, Grimes is a musical master at the height of her powers, and the seamless, carefully considered composition of the live experience is proof of her artistic, ahem, vision. She gives the impression of someone who knows exactly what they’re doing and where they’re going as an artist.
Crowd-pleasers such as the hugely popular ‘Flesh Without Blood’ and ‘Genesis’ are complimented by some pleasant surprises. ‘Go’, originally a collaboration with Blood Diamonds, has an almost euphoric resonance in the packed venue, while less celebrated tracks off the new album like ‘World Princess Part II’ really come into their own. Grimes’ remarkable versatility as a performer is also striking – in the absence of Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes, she declares that she, Grimes, will be performing the verses of ‘SCREAM’ in Russian. And she absolutely kills it.
As the set draws to a close, Grimes has a confession to make. She doesn’t actually like encores, because the etiquette is awkward and stressful. So she’s just going to launch straight into what would ordinarily be the encore song, ‘Kill V. Maim.’ And who could blame this adorable human? Everyone has been won over, everyone has already had the time of their lives, and everyone wishes they could be up onstage dancing with Grimes and her friends. For such a huge and hectic gig, the atmosphere is overwhelmingly warm, light-hearted and welcoming, and this is undoubtedly what sets it apart as one of those gigs that you remember for months, perhaps even years, to come.
By Cat Acheson
For our second launch party of the year we teamed up with our friends at Dukebox to celebrate The Future Issue. Here are the photos from what was a great night with our performers: Robbie Orr, Calum O’Connor, Jared Celosse, Eddie Stewart and Shanghai Ocarina!
I’m not a Kardashian fan. I think they are a sad representation of what the modern mass values today: excessive wealth, materialism and the vacuous. However the way the media (along with the keyboard warriors of the world) shames this group of women is archaic and highlights our worrying surveillance of how a woman should act.
Just this week, Kim Kardashian – muse of mastermind Kanye and mother to child fashionista North – posted a naked picture to her Instagram account which has a mere 63.1million followers as of this minute. Following Instagram’s female anatomy hating guidelines, her vagina and nipples are completely blacked out. Just by having access to the Internet, I have seen Kim Kardashian’s naked body many times in my life so this time was no different; I thought she looked great and then instantly forgot about the image.
It was only later on during another social media binge that day that I started seeing the outrage that so many had for this specific image. I’m not talking about outrage from the usual women-boycotting suspects like the British tabloids but rather the many people I would consider to be your standard student liberal shaming this woman for daring to bare her flesh. I saw comments ranging from disgust to the condemnation of her ability to be a mother.
If you believe women like Kim Kardashian should stay covered up, try telling that to the women of this world who don’t have that same kind of freedom of expression. Just this week, the Saudi Arabian UN delegation blasted a report claiming that the country is in extreme violation of human rights. Women in Saudi Arabia are not even permitted to go swimming for the prohibition of showing skin. In Syria, women are forced to cover up due to the threatening presence of Daesh. Airing this week, BBC’s documentary Sex in Strange Places: Turkey features a young Syrian woman who tells her story of how Daesh’s control of Syria meant she was forced to start covering her entire body. Despite this, one day she accidentally made eye contact with a Daesh fighter and was forced to be his sex slave.
The West consistently demonises the perceived to be Islamic extremist notion of covering the female body yet regularly shames western women for showing theirs. At the root, can you really separate these systems of surveillance? Both concepts are based on an inherent need to control the sight of the female figure. We just celebrated International Women’s Day while we still regulate and shame women like Kim Kardashian.
Despite popular opinion, the Kardashians aren’t all that is wrong with the world. The waves of greed and oppression that have swept through history resulting in the destruction of liberties are what are wrong. These people who are wound up about Kim K’s booty need to remember that.
At the end of the day, nobody has to worry about Kim K. She is raking it in; she made $80 million on her app alone in one year. How about worrying about your own desperate need to validate your antiquated views of how women should behave and view their body. It could be that people are bitter that a family of women dominate media, filling their armies of designer purses to the brim in the process. So they can’t sing or dance but they do have one of the best business strategies of the 21st century.
While it is undoubtedly worrying how desperate many girls are to emulate the Kardashians’ honed and sculpted figures, essentially it comes down to the fact that a woman can choose to look a certain way. This is something we have to protect and even value.
Also, can I just be pedantic for a second. The picture Kim uploaded has all the NAUGHTY bits censored. She actually had to censor herself just so that the picture would be acceptable for Instagram. You see cleavage, stomach and some leg. Maybe I’m a pervert, or just a normal adult, but I have seen way more explicit imagery in my lifetime. Therein lies the issue; she isn’t doing anything illegal, pornographic, explicit or dangerous. She simply shared an image of her figure and many are absolutely outraged, suggesting she is inherently a bad person, mother and role model. Culture has coded the female image so excessively as sexual that we can’t shake it off.
The reality is that many of us get self-gratification from our own image. As long as this isn’t our sole basis for self-worth, I think it’s ok to find some happiness in how you look.
So, just get a grip. If Kim Kardashian’s body offends you, then I don’t know, throw your phone and laptop into a river and bleach your eyes out or go join Jeremy Clarkson in a man cave somewhere and do manly things like men do. Since you know, the female body is so offensive.
By Anne Devlin
I know, I know. It’s probably the last thing you’d like to hear (or read) about after weeks of controversy, speculation, #WorstDressed and #AskHerMore. The Oscars. Or as the actress Bette Midler put it, ’the awards show where Leonardo DiCaprio is ”overdue” but black people can ”wait till next year.”’
But bare with me. I’m not going to write about white privilege, institutional racism or how we’re all relieved that Leo finally won (even though we all know he really peaked in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), as important as these topics are. What I want to linger on for just a little more is the film that, to the surprise of many and disappointment of some, won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards: Spotlight.
It was a surprise (even Morgan Freeman, who presented the award, seemed unable to conceal his astonishment) because Spotlight was outshone in the ceremony by an epic one man’s battle-against-the-odds revenge journey with Tom Hardy and an epic sort-of-feminist action-thriller-extravaganza with Tom Hardy. But, at least to me, it was a really nice surprise for a change.
Spotlight itself is an unexpected treat: a clean, crisp and, according to reporters such as The Guardian’s Alicia Shepard, an authentic portrayal of investigative journalism. Although the basic narrative it offers—based on a true story about a group of journalists who in the early 2000s exposed the systemic sex abuse of children by Catholic priests in Boston—reeks of Oscars-worthy heroism, the way in which it is told largely avoids the pitfalls of excessive sentimentality that we’ve come to expect from Hollywood biographies. In this respect it also fares much better than the other Hollywood film about journalism that was released last year, James Vanderbilt’s Truth, which was part of the Glasgow Film Festival programme a couple weeks back. Starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford as the 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes and legendary anchor Dan Rather, respectively, the film tells the story of the Killian documents controversy that led to Mapes’ firing from CBS and the end of Rather’s career.
Although Spotlight is much more subtle and sophisticated than Truth, which cannot help but indulge in moments of heroic pathos (watch out for overpowering score and slow motion footage of Redford intercut with shots of people clapping), both films do something important. They illustrate what journalism, essentially, is about—what it can be at its finest (Spotlight), what is at stake when mistakes are made (Truth), and, perhaps most importantly, the amount of work that goes into—or should go into—telling a story that is not only true but accepted as such (both). The amount of hours spent on digging up documents in archives and courthouses, making phone calls, checking facts from multiple sources and—what seems to be Truth screenwriters’ favourite phrase—asking questions, is staggering. I hesitate to claim that these films are ‘authentic’ or ‘truthful’ descriptions of what it is like being a journalist—of course they’re not, they’re dramatizations, and of a special kind of journalism at that, the investigative kind. Nor do I want to be naïve and insist that all journalists are motivated by some higher cause. But, for me at least, they succeed in conveying a sense of appreciation for the hard work done by the people in that profession, so often met up by insults and harsh criticism rather than applauds and Oscar statues.
And what a topical subject for us as students of Glasgow University. Last week, the editors of Glasgow Guardian reported on the SRC elections to much controversy (see here https://glasgowguardian.co.uk/2016/03/01/src-ran-movember-at-a-loss/ and here https://glasgowguardian.co.uk/2016/03/03/a-response-to-the-tab/) and, as the new SRC president Ameer Ibrahim and VPs start their term, the fate of student media on campus needs to be addressed. As far removed as the world of Boston Globe and CBS seems to be from our little hill, Spotlight and Truth can still say something about the importance of sustaining student-led organisations and societies that speak to and for students, such as Subcity, Glasgow Guardian, GUM, GUST, Qmunicate and others. Apart from the overall significance of journalism, these films also illustrate the importance of good management and adequate support—my message to Ameer Ibrahim and others at the SRC.
On a more personal note: if you’re in the same situation as I am—about to graduate, suddenly waking up to the realisation that you have no idea what you want to do with your life—watching a film like Spotlight could make a difference. Someone older and wiser would perhaps advise you never to base your career plans on the information you get from a Hollywood film, but I say that a little dreaming never hurt anybody. And, if after your movie night you feel like journalism or ‘something to do with media’ (that’s me) might be for you, get in touch with GUM or one of the above and get involved with student media. You might not be applauded on an Oscar stage, but, I guarantee you, you will get to ask questions.
Truth and Spotlight in cinemas now. For other entertaining and intelligent portrayals of journalism see the Danish TV drama Borgen and HBO’s Newsroom.
Watch this space: GUM editorial positions open for applications soon.
By Hanna Markkanen
People love the spectacle of a miserable fat person. The ‘unhappy fatty’ is pervasive: from tell-all interviews where a size 14 reality TV star bemoans her cellulite, to hordes of obese people on The Biggest Loser being publicly berated for their weight, to the sneaky beach pics of celebrities with jiggling bellies and touching thighs which a few months later lead to a book deal and insipid exercise DVD. Happiness is for the thin.
But what’s so wrong with being fat?
The answer many people would give is that it’s ‘unhealthy’, but often, that isn’t what they mean, at least when commenting on an individual’s weight rather than the problem of obesity. Of course many people are rightfully concerned about the health of the general population, but when it comes to individuals, what really bothers people about fat – whether or not they admit it to themselves – isn’t that it’s unhealthy. It’s that it’s unsightly. Unappealing. Unattractive. On the whole, we tend not to care much about that guy on the TV’s health unless it negatively affects our viewing pleasure.
Being overweight can be damaging to health; that’s a fact. Another fact is less commonly acknowledged: that it is perfectly possible to be healthy while also being overweight. This, when brought up by the body positivity movement, seems to provoke nothing short of derangement in otherwise sane, rational, open-minded people. ‘What do you mean, fat people can be healthy? Every single fat person without exception is going to rot in an early grave, buried under the rubble of OUR MURDERED NHS.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen the statistics – excess fat can lead to heart disease, diabetes, etc, etc. But people aren’t statistics, and it makes no sense to treat every single fat person as a representative of the whole.
And isn’t that what people are doing, when they see a plus sized model or a confident fat person showing their body on Instagram and immediately jump on them as ‘promoting an unhealthy body image’ or ‘not taking care of themselves’? There are a vast number of ways that a person could be taking care of themselves that aren’t immediately visible. Maybe they workout more than most but are naturally bigger, or prefer their body with a few ‘extra’ pounds. Maybe they don’t care about how their body looks because they’re busy trying to become a neurosurgeon or write a novel or look after three kids and an ageing parent. Why does it matter? Why do people care so much?
And we can’t deny that people do care, so much. As a culture, we are obsessed with bodies, particularly women’s bodies – although the point I’m making is relevant to all genders, the issue is magnified for women due to the excessive value assigned to their appearance – and particularly with thinness/fatness and the personal worth we assign to people based on their position on that reductive and somewhat arbitrary spectrum.
I say arbitrary, because beauty is subjective. To a larger extent than most of us realise, what we find attractive is learned, not innate. It’s true that in the homogenised culture of the West, we can all roughly agree which people are good looking and which aren’t, but these definitions aren’t consistent across cultures and eras. In the 17th century plump Rubenesque beauty was highly prized (and no one made snarky ‘get on the treadmill’ comments about his muses). In the Elizabethan era, big foreheads were a thing, and women often plucked their hairline back by about an inch to create the illusion of a fivehead (why?). In Arabian society in the Middle Ages, female beauty lay in having a round face; in Japan in the 17th and 18th centuries, female beauty lay in having a long, narrow face.
Two hundred years ago in Britain a tan was about as desirable as a third leg – poor people were tanned because they had to work outdoors, and so paleness signified wealth and nobility. With the rise of the middle class and the invention of air travel, the significance changed: suddenly a tan meant you could afford to go on holiday. Similarly, in poorer countries extra weight equates to extra wealth and is thus seen as a desirable social symbol. Beauty is not only commodified by capitalism, it is defined by it.
And the changes aren’t always separated by centuries or continents. In the 90s, beauty was over-plucked eyebrows and ‘heroin chic’ skeletal thinness. Now, in our post-Delevigne, post-Kardashian world, big butts and heavy eyebrows are the look to emulate, and the sorry teenagers of the 00s are desperately trying to HD Brows their 3 remaining eyebrow hairs.
Now, beauty being a social construct and not some solid, hyper-real thing doesn’t mean it’s easy to disregard. It’s cultural, and that shit is buried deep. Take movies and TV shows as an example. Fat girls are almost never the protagonists; fat girls are almost never the romantic leads. No one pines over fat girls. No one writes songs for fat girls. And average-sized or chubby girls, girls who aren’t Hollywood thin but aren’t overweight either, don’t exist at all.
This last point is illustrated best by the anecdote which accompanies this picture.
The actress explains: ‘I had a meeting with a casting director from LA. Without a glance at my headshot or resume, and not even a decent introduction, this stranger looks at me, all 5 feet and 2 inches, 125 pounds of me and says, “You need to lose twenty or gain thirty because where you are right now, I can’t do anything with you.” A bit thrown, but not wanting to be rude, I ask, “Can you elaborate on that?” To which she replied, “Your face says ingénue but it wouldn’t quite work, and I can’t put you as fat best friend because you’re not exactly fat.”’
In our shared cultural imagination, fat girls and ‘not exactly fat’ girls are not ingénues. They do not have – cannot possibly have – the Interesting and Exciting and Quite Possibly Dangerously Thrilling lives that we all lusted after as teenagers. And for teenagers, young people who are just beginning to define themselves and their futures, being able to imagine yourself as the exciting ingénue or the badass lead character is incredibly important.
When I was twelve, I remember inspecting my figure in the mirror critically for the first time and asking my gramma when my stomach would get flatter. When I was thirteen, I bought a padded bra and delighted in the fact that it made the rest of me look thinner by comparison. When my problems with my body really began, I was fourteen years old and perfectly average: 5’7” and a size ten. And I thought that I was fat.
Let me clarify. I knew I wasn’t fat: intellectually I could look at my body and know I wasn’t overweight, and that I was in fact thinner than a lot of people. I was, as that casting director so carefully put it, not exactly fat. But I wasn’t exactly thin thin either. I didn’t look like the girls in the magazines or the movies. I didn’t have a perfectly flat stomach. And so I when I was fifteen, I started a thinspo blog.
Thinspo, to the blessedly uninitiated, is thinspiration: pictures of thin people designed to motivate you to lose weight. I spent hours every day on Tumblr – literally hours – poring over pictures of waifish girls with concave stomachs, protruding hips, knife-sharp collarbones, and thigh gaps wider than their actual thighs. As someone with wide hips and big boobs, I was never going to look like those girls no matter how much I dieted.
But oh, how I longed to. Really. I pined. I looked at these girls with the yearning desire of a long distance lover. These girls were a wish and a promise: that I too could be as beautiful, as beguiling, as effortlessly chic as them if only I had the willpower to become Thin Me. The temporally distant but oh-so-alluring Thin Me was not only physically improved, oh no: she was bestowed with all the confidence, charm and grace that her suave new look must surely foster – as though confidence, charm and grace could only manifest inside skin stretched tautly over bone.
I took action too: I eagerly collected diets I had no way of following while living with family; I counted calories occasionally; I avoided food all day only to binge on biscuits later; I calculated with mathematical precision exactly what weight I’d be on a specific date if I ate x amount of calories per day; I spent a feverish month going running every night in sub zero temperatures; I bought diet pills on the internet; I toyed with making myself throw up. But mostly, I looked at these skinny girls for hours and then I looked at myself, and that was the worst thing of all.
Ironically, it was on Tumblr that someone finally articulated what my thinspo Tumblr did to me, what happens when you subject your body to such intense scrutiny:
My body wasn’t bad, but it felt all wrong: I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, uncomfortable in my clothes, and incredibly self-conscious almost all the time. I yearned to ‘be able’ to wear whatever I wanted, as though I was physically incapable of donning a crop top – as though the world would implode if I dared to wear a bodycon dress without first starving off my podgy belly.
I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, and I don’t particularly consider myself to have had one. My behaviours around and attitude towards food were pretty fucked up at times, but many of my friends went through similar stages falling under the broad headings of ‘being weird about food’ and ‘quietly hating yourself’. When, at eighteen, I confessed my secret thinspo blog to my best friend, she excitedly admitted that she had one too. I recognised her blog name. Hell is a teenage girl.
Self-hatred is the logical conclusion in a world saturated with photoshopped perfection. Consciously unlearning our self-hatred is a damn sight harder than subliminally learning it, but it can be done. I gave my thinspo blog up a long time ago, but held on to some tenuous link with the idealised Thin Me of the Future by following fitspo instead, rationalising it as healthier, motivating, good for the soul; in the end – for me at least – it was just more of the same.
Now, the only bodies I admire on the internet are those of the women of the body positivity movement, who come in all shapes and sizes and often a range of exciting hair colours, like the Barbies we were never taught to dream of but so desperately need. My Instagram feed is full of women showing off their podgy stomachs and big thighs proudly – all the things I was so incredibly ashamed of having – and that has helped me see myself, finally, as I actually am: totally fine.
So when people say that that the inclusion of ‘plus-sized’ models and actors on the catwalk and in films and magazines is harming us, that the body positivity movement is ‘promoting an unhealthy body image’, I want to scream. The body positivity movement didn’t create my unhealthy relationship with food and my own body. The body positivity movement doesn’t fuel the eating disorders which have the highest mortality rates of any mental illness. And we didn’t reach a point where more than half the population of the UK is overweight due to fat people being accurately represented in the media.
I agree that if increased representation of chubby and fat bodies on our screens resulted in humanity flocking en masse to their nearest McDonalds to stuff their faces in the hopes of being the next Tess Holliday, that would be a bad thing. But that’s not what putting ‘plus-sized’ people in magazines and films and on runways is going to do, even if they are as big as size-22 Tess. All it will do is create a comparatively tiny push back against the hulking giant of the entire Western culture and media that tells us that women over a size 8 aren’t worthy of our attention. Hopefully, it will help the next generation of teenagers (and current adults!) to escape the self-hatred which is, unequivocally, the unhealthiest thing of all.
Eating disorders affect around 7% of people in the UK, a quarter of whom are male – but these figures don’t reflect the real impact of our obsession with our bodies, because being ‘weird about food and quietly hating yourself’ isn’t necessarily qualified as an eating disorder. Much more telling are the statistics that state ‘50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control methods such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives’. 80% of ten year old girls in America have been on a diet. More than 50% of women see a distorted image of themselves in the mirror. Yes, sometimes, fat is unhealthy. But it’s a damn sight healthier than our cultural obsession with thinness.
Mental health is health too.
Ten years after I first asked my gramma when my stomach would be flat, I do not have a flat stomach. As I write this, I’m sitting in my bra looking down at the little roll of pudge poking over the top of my jeans. This pudge used to mean that I was a failure, destined for an unremarkable, mediocre life. I would never be the cool girl, or the hot girl, or the girl someone falls in love with.
My pudge doesn’t mean that any more. My pudge exists because of all the times I ate pizza in bed with my boyfriend, or ate a bunch of snacks while marathoning Lord of the Rings, and I fucking love those times. And I can be hot and cool and loved. It was never the pudge that was stopping me – only my anxious teenage brain and what our body-obsessed culture did to it.
That’s why the body positivity movement is not only important, but essential: it teaches us that in a world where flaws are unforgivable, we don’t have to forgive ourselves. There was never anything to forgive.
by Lauren Jack
Not to be dramatic, but the Hummingbirds’ gig at the Hug and Pint last week is one of the best that Glasgow has seen in recent months.
The evening kicks off with support from Laurence Made Me Cry – a beautiful singer with a beautiful voice who writes her own music. She hands the audience members a pack of seeds after her set with a download code on them (‘I ran out of CDs’). She’s launching her EP on the tenth of April and you should get yourself along and check her out, she’s amazing.
It’s safe to say that the Hummingbirds do not disappoint in any respect. After all, who could be anything less than content with a nice pint and five Liverpudlians serenading them. Looking around the audience in the intimate venue, each person loves what they hear and most are dancing along. During their set their passion and enjoyment of the music is clear to see and we are told afterwards that most of their music is written to play to each other’s likes and strengths, which is probably why their music sounds so natural and works so well.
They’ve been playing together for about five years, starting out as a couple of lads messing around with guitars and then building on the music they were making by adding new members and slowly creating their own sound. Of course, we are hesitant to ask five boys from Liverpool about their artistic influences, but before we have even finished the question they are laughing and confirm that the Beatles are pretty important to them. They seem flattered when we say that their image and sound was similar to the Fab Four. Indeed they are very humble and pleased with these compliments – ‘Imagine someone saying you sound like the Beatles!’ Jay exclaims.
The Hummingbirds’ album ‘Pieces of You’ is being released at the end of March, check them out on social media (fantastic Instagram) and at their website: wearethehummingbirds.com
By Alice Tully
Stalls are packed tonight as The Royal Scottish National Orchestra prepare to perform the music of John Williams. Williams provided the music screen hits such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Hook, E.T and Jurassic Park, as well as many other countless film titles.
The whole performance is spectacular – the instruments played by a number of talented musicians serve as paint brushes, depicting imagery witnessed on the screen many times. For whether it is a battle scene between Luke Sky Walker and Darth Vader or the first encounter of a candlelit Hogwarts by Harry, Ron and Hermione, the music evokes feelings of nostalgia, excitement, awe, intensity and melancholy – all in the space of two hours.
It is hard to forget the music played in “Star Wars” as the musicians visit it many times throughout the whole performance and play so beautifully and powerfully. The theme tune in particular comes out of nowhere and takes everyone by surprise. It is a very cinematic experience.
Another notable part of the performance is the composition from “Far and Away”. The film tells the tale of an Irish Family who migrated to the U.S in the 1890s and then make their quest to Oklahoma – the Free Land. Though this film is perhaps one of his lesser known films, Williams does a good job of depicting an image of the family’s journey through a beautiful blend of classical music with playful traditional folk music. In addition to the music, this piece sparks thought about a current issue. By reminding us of the migration rates between Europe and America in the nineteenth century – when many Scots and Irish were forced to flee their homes – we are reminded that many individuals today are being forced out of their homelands and turning to the UK to seek safety.
Also grasping the attention of the audience this evening is conductor Richard Kaufman who gives praise to John Williams, describing him as “memorable creative voice”. His music gave these films a character which really drew audiences, and made classical music much more accessible to the general public.
To add, in his speech Kaufman gives notable praise to music in general: “Life can be tough and it can be difficult to deal with at times. This can sometimes be dealt with by seeking peace, beauty and refinement”. This comes in the form of nicely composed, classical pieces performed by a talented orchestra, who are always in residence at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
By Greg Marlborough
Two years ago, I landed in a lovely sisterhood of a flat where we would sit round the kitchen table and quiz each other via the ‘The Dating Persona’ Okcupid test. It promised to analyze sex drive, predictability, intelligence and inherent goodness. It was an absurd hangover breakfast diversion, but I enjoyed the zany matches to other types and dead-eyed pastel illustrations.
I happened to be single that summer, and watching How To Be Single this week impressed uncanny similarities between my old self and the lead lady Alice. The most obvious aspect I saw of myself was that I had to go the long haul to realize I wasn’t doing things on my own: to enjoy my own company. I would cycle the extra mile for a baked good cause I deserved to be in love with myself. I would text many guys because I was lonely – but I thought I was owning it – and was probably quite shitty to my friends in figuring all this out. Also, the phrase ‘getting caught in dick sand’ sounds like something me and my friends would actually say.
How To Be Single was by no means a perfect film – the plot lost the way a little in the middle – but it was endlessly refreshing as it showed a more realistic attitude to young women today. It surfs the polar standards set by Hollywood of people that are either happily in love or desolate and single. The film presents a grey area, a middle slog that sometimes takes months, perhaps years to traverse. This is the tumultuous ocean of self-love. Also, it was great to have Rebel Wilson provide some comic effect. Likewise, the men in the film were not all after the poon. Mr. Bartender was weird, but I think him ending the film alone with his dis-serviced mini fridge proved a point. Mr. Professional Building-Developer was shitty to Alice, but then apologized and vacated the screen focusing on the core relationship in his life; that with his daughter. ‘Hey there’s that adorable man who warmed the butter in his hands from Obvious Child!’ at first hand seemed too eagerly pursuing his chosen gal, but it was revealed he just wanted a nice family all along and dressed-up as a stay at home dad at an 8th grade costume party. Basically, a male with his eyes set on the prize – all day watching Chef’s Table re-runs on Netflix and making pureed carrot. He was a… LATTE PAPA. It is fantastic that movies finally recognize this breed of human.
When films give two minutes to consider equal cinematic representation of the sexes, it’s like watching a toddler still stumbling towards their first steps, as you get to see it grow and reflect on the triumphs and near misses. Superhero film Deadpool was like an overly performative ten-year-old throwing shit into your eyes. Watching Deadpool, I was reminded instantly of one of the darker questions of the Okcupid quiz: ‘Suppose your boyfriend/girlfriend is horribly burned in a car accident that was totally your fault. They are badly mutilated and *pissed off*. Is it time to say goodbye?’. We were all horrified at this question and, not being a sociopath, answered no. Ryan Reynold’s character simply says: ‘Are you deformed from trying to access an up-and-coming cancer treatment? Gross. Never even walk on the same street as your partner again, as they will not accept you’. He also draws the line at having cancer period. Just walk right out on your fiancée in the middle of the night, cause it’s time to say goodbye.
Another thing Deadpool does is pay for a sex-worker to go on a date with him, in some sort of hostage situation, where he withholds sex until the clock is running (cause he sweetly wanted to take her to an arcade first). But when the magic does happen, she is utterly eroticized by his peen and, unclearly, she is now his girlfriend.
Their whole relationship is a montage of different ways they’ve had sex. This might have been refreshing in another film, but since her character was a sex-worker two minutes ago earlier, they should have clarified if she was still on a contract with him.
After twenty-four hours, I can now laugh at it, but in all honestly Deadpool made the world feel a bit smaller with its smack-down of sexism. A female character, who exhibited to a traditional lad-mentality audience an unapproachable appearance (piercings, shaved hair and comfortable clothing) was met with the aside ‘Good luck to the guy who tries to force her into after prom sex’. Ah Deadpool, how wink wink nudge nudge you slipped a rape joke in! I honestly was sick in my mouth multiple times during this film. I also got a neck injury from peeking over at the majority male audience in Dbox seats – cause real men sit in the hardcore area – to see how they were receiving it. They found the whole thing utterly hilarious of course.
So one film made the world a little bigger with its exploration of newer shades of movie character, the other made me afraid to strike up a conversation with any man that isn’t my boyfriend. In case you’re wondering, one film received 83% and the other 49%. I’ll let you puzzle that one out for yourself. However, as both films present themselves as cinematic junk food I was pleasantly surprised to get a little more from How to Be Single.
By Heather O’Donnell
With one week left until GUM #2 The Future Edition is released, the editor reflects on the future of media.
Not many things get people excited anymore. The greatest turn-ons of the year seem to be the Superbowl Half-Time Show, People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive and the Academy Awards Ceremony. (Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish to diminish celebrity achievements. I have like everyone else been haunted by wet dreams of Leonardo DiCaprio grabbing a phallic golden statuette and I am also massively impressed by Beyoncé’s twerking skills.)
But the more I flick through online newsfeeds and social media channels, the more I realise that the media is a circus. And the readers are the clowns that perform in it. I wish we could be as graceful as the elephants. But we remain clowns with masks that obscure how we perceive the world – pale and white, ghoulishly laughing, with black tear stains.
Events and news that matter remain somewhat concealed to us. Those moments are rare that silence the buzz of sensationalism. Those moments that cut like a razor through everything and make the world crystal clear. Those moments where we are confronted with The Real.
One such moment happened in 2013 when Internet activist Aaron Swartz died. During his entire life, Swartz propagated for the freedom of information to all, maintaining that access to the Internet is a human right. When he studied at MIT, he downloaded millions of academic articles from JSTOR to make the point that these journals should be available to everyone – that knowledge should not be exclusive to a rich élite. Swartz was subsequently charged with intent to commit a felony and an overzealous list of prosecutorial charges dragged on for the next two years. The sad event of Swartz’ suicide was mourned across the globe and awoke the world to the importance of freedom of information.
Another heart-stopping moment occurred when whistle-blower Edward Snowden left his post at the NSA in Hawaii and fled to Hong Kong with thousands of classified documents. These documents exposed illegal telecommunications and online surveillance, not just of American citizens, but also of people worldwide. With roguish charm, Snowden managed to fool the US government and an entire press core when he booked several airline tickets and escaped to Moscow. Since then, Snowden has expertly eluded all his persecutors and has had reporters chase their tails for an interview. Now he has become an icon for something larger than himself: everyone’s fundamental right to privacy.
A third moment took place in 2015, when hacktivist group Anonymous interrupted Fox News. For a minute and a half, the Guy Fawkes-mask invaded the TV screens of American homes with the message: ‘We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us!’. Soon the reel was shown across the world. It proved that the Internet collective of jokesters and trolls had become a serious political movement in its own right with powers to influence and effect change. The Internet has thus become an arena for people to express their opinions on equal grounds. Anonymous has facilitated the public demonstrations of these opinions, united by a common goal: the freedom of expression.
These are the moments that matter, that break through all the noise and reveal something resembling the truth. Some say that print media is dying, but it does not mean that the media is less important. On the contrary, the media and our continual engagement with it are more important than ever. It does not mean we should stop enjoying celebrity news. It means that the freedom of information, the right to privacy and the freedom of expression should not be taken for granted. The way we exercise these rights will define our generation.
Personally, I believe it is high time to wash off our clown faces; step into the ring of the circus and claim ownership of what is ours.
By Sofia Linden
For more information on moments the earth skipped a beat… Watch the following excellent documentaries:
The Internet’s Own Boy (2014), directed by Brian Knappenberger
Citizenfour (2014), directed by Laura Poitras
We Are Legion (2012), directed by Brian Knappenberger
Albert Einstein has become an icon in the physics and astronomy communities, and one of his greatest contributions has been that most elusive and complex theory – ‘The Theory of Relativity’, which has predicted the presence of many things in the still ‘less-understood’ Universe. The most bizarre of these predictions is the existence of Gravitational Waves – which were recently discovered. Einstein stands correct once again!
In order to understand what Gravitational Waves actually are, lets perform a small thought experiment. Imagine a very flexible rubber sheet that you can spread tight and taut. If you place a bowling ball over this sheet, it will create a dent in the surface. Now, if you place a tennis ball in nearby vicinity, it will create a comparatively smaller dent, and will begin to revolve around the bowling ball (try it at home, but be careful: bowling balls can be really heavy sometimes). Well, something similar to this scenario applies to our model of the Universe. Objects of heavy mass create higher levels of ‘distortion’ (a larger dent) in the fabric of space-time than lighter masses. These masses are in constant motion and when they accelerate, ripples of waves are formed in the space-time fabric and these are nothing but – The Gravitational Waves!
Over the last few years, enormous efforts have been made to detect these very weak waves in order to ‘see’ the universe from a gravitational perspective, as electromagnetic radiation offers a different view on the universe. This is because gravitational waves are thought to pass through all matter unhindered, which means that observing them will offer a new glance at the super massive objects or events happening in the Universe, or even the Universe’s very origin – The Big Bang.
Currently, LIGO, the earth based detector, has been in the news ever since it confirmed that they have finally detected these gravitational waves. It has been hailed as the discovery of the century (I might be going out of the limb here, but it is huge!). The main problem faced by the land based gravitational wave detectors like LIGO is the background noise from Earth, caused by the likes of waves, human interference, mining and construction, and even seismic activity. These interferences limit the sensitivity of the detectors on earth and so, in order to conduct a more effective search for gravitational waves, the concept of space-based detectors was born, which ultimately led to creation of Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (eLISA). It is the first space-bound gravitational wave detector set to be launched by 2034 by the European Space Agency (ESA). It is supposed to detect thousands of sources by using gravitational waves and, since it’s in space, the detector can have gigantically long arms so as to increase the sensitivity further.
It has been designed to form an equilateral triangle made up of three separate space-crafts, with one of them functioning as a “mother” craft and two others as “daughters”. They are supposed to have an arm length of one million kilometers. The entire detector will take up an orbit around the Sun, following Earth by twenty degrees. This first massive detector will basically measure these waves by checking the distortion in the space-time contained within the arms of the detectors (millions of kilometers). The measurement of the distortions in space-time would be carried out using interferometer methods – the use of lasers at every arm of the triangle.
Special algorithms have been developed by NASA and ESA over the decades to identify and classify tens of thousands of different sources detected by eLISA over time. Results have shown that sources can be successfully classified every time and this is being currently tested in the LISA pathfinder, a space-craft which was launched in December 2015 to test the techniques developed for eLISA.
By 2030, knowledge of Universe will have greatly changed and the addition of a new detector would assist this process enormously. Currently electromagnetic radiation detectors can help us see the Universe, but the window they give us is somewhat limited. However, with the advent of gravitational wave detectors, our ability to ‘hear’ the Universe will increase manifold and give us a valuable insight to the origins of… well, everything. Astronomical science would change drastically, and we’d even come to understand more about the mysterious ‘dark’ Universe, all due to the gravitational waves. Finding them was just the first step!
By Prarthana Desai
As I walk down Byres Road, I ask myself the same questions that Bilbo asked himself when dwarfs overtook his home. Where did they come from? What do they want? And for how long do they plan to stay? Ten years ago nobody had heard of a “hipster”, much less seen them or knew what they were. One day, they began to appear and, suddenly, they were everywhere. There was never a first hipster, a father of hipsters nor the Adam and Eve of hipsters. Nonetheless, similar to an alpine avalanche, hipsters have become unstoppable and they are multiplying exponentially for each passing day.
I don’t think anyone has ever met a self-professed hipster (if you have, please leave a comment, I would surely love to meet them). No one has ever introduced him or herself to me and openly declared “Hi! My name is _____ and I am a hipster”.
It seems we cannot be sure hipsters exist at all. Even though, everyone knows what signs to look for: retro clothing, broad-rimmed glasses, tote bags and an unread copy of Kafka or Camus under their arm. There is no way to prove that someone identifies as a hipster unless they say so themselves.
As I continue my walk down the road, I watch them closely. They roll their skinny cigarettes or carefully apply wax to their moustaches. I feel the urge to grab them and shake them and shout: “Who are you? Why are you doing this? Take me to your leader!”. But that would be crazy. They do not have an ideology. They are not a movement or a subculture as such. There is no charismatic leader and they do not geographically belong. There seems to be no point to their conceptual existence at all.
I begin to wonder where my hipsterphobia (my innate fear of hipsters) comes from. It’s a burning question for any reader who made it this far. I am a young vegetarian woman with a straight fringe, who studies English Literature, loves to go on angry feminist rants and only buys clothes from charity shops. I seem to check all the right boxes. Yet, I have never identified as a hipster, and I know I have not always been this way. I wasn’t born riding an old stripped-down bike with the urge to go to Berlin and visit underground nightclubs.
So, how did it happen? Perhaps, I woke up one day and felt the inexplicable urge to play vinyl records and wear Doc Martens boots. Or maybe, it happened by slow degrees through careful societal manipulation and social pressure to be different from the mainstream. I must have bought into the trend for some reason. But I still don’t want people to call me that word. Hipster. It fills me with dread.
I tear my hair because I can’t figure out why the word feels so shameful. The concept contains an inherent contradiction. As everyone attempts to be different, mainstream becomes difference and the essence of difference continually slips away and stays slightly out of reach. It becomes a competition and a race: who has the artsiest tote bag, who went to the most underground party and who read the most obscure book…
I’ve made a decision. It is time to let go of the shame and step out of the closet. This is who I am. I accept. I cannot hide it anymore. My desire for woolly sweaters and delicious cups of tea is too great to be contained. So I step forward and in a loud voice I declare: I am hipster, hear me roar!
By Sofia Linden
Photograph: Brand New Images/Getty Images
You’ve probably heard the term ‘lad culture’ thrown around at university or in the newspapers. Headlines such as The Telegraph’s ‘Can universities ever get rid of boozy, sexist lad culture?’ and the Guardian’s ‘It’s not lad culture – it’s misogyny’ conjures up images of alcoholic rapists running rampant on the street while mid way through an honours degree.
I don’t mean to be insensitive when addressing this issue; certain consequences of pre-conceived ideas of lad culture result in sexual harassment and alcohol abuse and this is unacceptable. And while it is thought that ‘lad culture’ is a black and white issue, insomuch as, it’s a sub culture of predominately men who endorse sexist, racist, homophobic behaviour – this is only sometimes the case. Those who consider themselves affiliated with lad culture can come from a variety of backgrounds and have diverse range of interest and opinions. So how do we define lad culture when it’s such a subjective term?
The NUS (National Union of Students) describes lad culture as ‘a group or ‘pack’ mentality residing in activities such as sport, heavy alcohol consumption and ‘banter’ which was often sexist, misogynistic, racist or homophobic’. This is a common understanding of lad culture, particularly amoung young women. Gemma Clark, a multi-media journalist student at Glasgow Caledonian University believes lad culture is ‘groups of guys that act hyper-masculine. I see lad culture as drinking, being derogatory towards women, being loud, anti social behaviour and travelling in packs’. Similarly, UWS (University of the West of Scotland) student Heather Armstrong says ‘I’d say lad culture is a negative part of the socialisation of young people, especially young men’. However, people can associate themselves with ‘lad culture’, or deem themselves a ‘lad’, without being guilty of endorsing sexist or antisocial behaviour, yet this isn’t something that is openly discussed. ‘Lad culture’ is portrayed to have ridged pre-requisites, when actually it’s a versatile culture that encompasses different aspects of what is considered ‘popular culture’.
As the term itself originated in the 90s, it has evolved and changed over the years. In the 90s it was associated with bands such as Oasis and was understood as a brotherhood of sorts, a support network of male friends who enjoyed the same activities. The understanding of the term in 2015 is wholly different, with an emphasis on sexually aggressive and bigoted ideals. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that those aspects didn’t exist in the 90s, it was hardly a decade innocent of sexual exploitation, but lad culture sprouted mainly into the cultural fields of Britpop and did so with a ferocity equivalent to the Spice Girls infamous ‘girl power’. In the 90s, both ‘lad culture’ and ‘girl power’ were gendered consumer cultures that, on the outside, pretended to empower each gender but, underneath, simply reinforced stereotypes in a largely benign way.
Nowadays, ‘lad culture’ can be associated with anything from car enthusiasts and sports fans, to Playboy readers and homophobes. But whatever the association, it’s now a dominant sub culture that surrounds us daily, compared to previous years when it merely acted as a social escapism for young people. Chris of feminist zine TYCI says, ‘Personally I love football and I used to like Oasis (a long time back). At the same time I am certainly not homophobic, I don’t drink much and I co-founded a feminist fanzine so for me any real definition (of lad culture) immediately breaks down.’ Thus, we are faced with the problem – if lad culture covers such a broad range of attitudes and interests then how can we pinpoint where the destructive elements of this culture stem from?
I think it’s important to address the damaging aspects of lad culture within the wider context of society and its inherent traditional views of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’. It is not justifiable to blame all young men for the negative aspects associated with this culture, we must take into account the shades of grey within such a dominant issue. Generalisations are rarely ethically sound, but having said that, whether you consider yourself part of lad culture or not, it’s beneficial for everyone to recognise unacceptable behaviours and pave the way for a societal shift in consciousness that is reflective of its actions and attitudes.
It can be argued that ‘lad culture’ feeds into the wider ‘popular culture’ and both of these terms merely act as umbrellas to more specific complex issues. These issues exist within a nebulous universe of fixed ideas and inadvertent principals concerning femininity, race, sexuality and class.
‘Lad culture’ therefore, is a complex term that spans many regions of thought in the western hemisphere. It can’t be boxed in or pigeonholed. However, there are certain negative and archaic attitudes that exist within lad culture that should be challenged. Tackling the root of these attitudes will allow us to move forward as a progressive, compassionate society.
By Mina Green
Every night, between the hours of 8am and 8pm, a church in Glasgow’s West End becomes home to up to twenty destitute male asylum seekers and a handful of volunteers. The volunteers then depart to their warm homes and, somewhat tiredly, go about their daily activities. The asylum seekers however must occupy themselves, feed themselves and stay warm for twelve hours, with no work – unless they have managed to find something illegal.
As somebody who leaves the shelter and heads back to another day at University, I am left each shift with guilt about what the guys are going to do to pass the time. As a man told me: ‘the nights go fast. Before you know it, it’s morning.’ They are in limbo: waiting on their claim to work its way through the long maze that is the Home Office asylum process. If someone is at risk of being persecuted in their own country, they may go abroad and ask for asylum in another country. Granting ‘asylum’ means giving someone permission to remain in another country because of that risk of persecution. The right to claim asylum is international law, and governments are obliged to provide protection for people who meet the criteria for asylum. Although they may have entered the UK illegally, once they have applied for asylum they are no longer ‘illegal’ and are entitled to stay in the UK whilst awaiting a decision. Someone who has received a positive decision on his or her asylum claim is given refugee status and allowed to remain. However, the decision making process is very tough, lengthy and many people’s claims are rejected. Meanwhile, they are prevented from working and are provided with only £36.95 a week to live on. Some of the men at the shelter will spend hours in the library; at least there they can get some warmth and use facilities for free. But for how long can you sit reading books and using a computer, day after day? Boredom is one of the main difficulties for these guys, for it is not only the lack of material resources that makes life difficult, but also the struggle of having no job and no money.
I spoke to a man from Algeria who was a fireman back home. When he arrived in the UK he was told he was too old to be a fire officer because he’d have to begin training again, his experience in Algeria counted for nothing. He then worked in a hotel in London for six years, starting as a porter and working his way up to becoming a chef. However, when he got divorced the Home Office removed his right to work and he had to begin his asylum claim again. He is now homeless and jobless in Glasgow. Another guy has been showing me some maths puzzles, and taught me how to do one – really well considering the language barrier. I found out he used to be a maths teacher. I struggle to deal with the idea of a man being degraded from a maths teaching position to teaching the occasional willing volunteer how to complete a puzzle. But with a smile on his face and a lot of patience, he sits and talks me through in broken English and plenty of laughter.
The optimism and resilience of the men I talk to is incredible. It would be incredibly easy to lose hope. They are just a few of the thousands of asylum seekers who have slipped through the gaps of our supposedly supportive government. With no access to jobs and less state support than the minimum provided for UK nationals, it is very easy for asylum seekers to become destitute, and they are not offered the usual homeless services for nationals, relying on charities like the Night Shelter for food and shelter. Most of the men I talk to want to work, and if they could work they would put money back into the economy. The only other option is to work illegally, which means no protection, no minimum wage, and can undercut workers from the UK. Although the government says it provides a place to live for all people going through the asylum process, the reality is that many cannot access accommodation in a country with a lack of sufficient public housing. Asylum seekers do not jump the queue for council housing and they cannot choose where they live. The local council does not pay for the accommodation allocated to them.
As another volunteer said to me, coming to the Night Shelter provides some perspective on a life outside of the student bubble. We can all get tied down with our studies, societies, and social lives, but it is important to sometimes reflect on the troubles of others in the city around us. As a Sociology student, I have studied the effects of migration, but from my studies alone I have no sense of what life is really like for an unwelcome migrant. We take for granted small things in life like being able to make a cup of tea or having a shower. We don’t have to worry daily about being taken away to a detention centre and potentially ejected from the place we live to a place we could be persecuted. This is a reality that many face every day of their lives in the UK. Yet the number is far less than the media makes out: in 2014 just 24,914 applied for asylum, less than Germany, Sweden, Italy and France. And most have the intention to return to their home country when it is safe to do so.
Whatever the backgrounds of these men, they have come from homes where they have friends and family, a good job and a language and culture they are proud of. Many did not want to move. Imagine uprooting your entire life and leaving for somewhere where you have no connections, no work and must start from the very beginning. Most of us would not choose to do this. Imagine if, after you went through the struggle and pain of leaving a life behind, you were denied the right to work and the right to housing and state benefits in the country you had arrived in. With recent media attention at the situation in Calais it is clear something has to change. People are dying whilst fleeing their countries. We are now bombing Syria. We therefore have a duty to accept the refugees of conflicts we are perpetuating. But we cannot simply allow people into the country; they must be treated as equals, with the same human rights to food and shelter that the rest of us take for granted.
To find out more about the Night Shelter and if you are interested in volunteering visit:
For more information about asylum seekers and refugees in the UK visit:
By Annie Tothill
Here at GUM we have always had a spark for all things fashion, especially when it’s from our very own Glasgow. From GSA graduates to established brands, we have featured a string of inspiring designers in our editorial spreads. Back in 2013, Obscure Couture graced our pages. An award winning brand, Obscure Couture also found themselves in the pages of Vogue and on the backs of numerous celebrity fans. Unfortunately, after 5 vibrant and sparkly years, the brand is shutting its doors.
The adored Scottish label announced their closure after years at the top of its quirky game, offering stage-ready couture and ready to wear lines. The bold and contemporary look was worn by the likes of Arianna Grande and Marina and The Diamonds. The brand had a cult following due to its unique mix of a fairy tale fantasy with a hard edge.
Not to be shut down quietly, Obscure Couture will be partying until the end. Taking over BLOW Finnieston for the most fun wake ever, the salon will be playing host to a farewell party on January 30th from 7pm.
Not to be forgotten, samples and stock will be available to buy on the night while an online auction is underway. The event Death By Glitter is the perfect chance to celebrate the creativity of Glasgow as well as bagging a piece of fashion history. If you’re a fan of great hair and all that sparkles, this is the event for you.
The end may be nigh for Obscure Couture but your wardrobe doesn’t have to suffer. Help them blow out with a bang at Blow Finnieston this weekend.
By Anne Devlin
Although I have written a lot about social mix, cities still remain divided, or perceived as divided. The four directions of a compass are often used to make a distinction of some sort. Who hasn’t heard of the so-called Iron Curtain that divided the socialist East from the capitalist West? And nowadays, when geographers are referring to the global North or the global South, the North is the new framing of the First World, or the developed countries and comprises ironically also most of the ‘western’ countries. The South on the other hand, is the new concept for the Third World or developing countries. But also on much smaller geographical scales, the north and the south are used to distinguish one from the other, better from worse, richer from poorer.
The southern banks of the river Clyde for example, have a rather infamous reputation according to inhabitants of their northern counterparts. When you don’t have any purpose of going across the river, you simply don’t. Although I have lived in Glasgow for almost four months now, I indeed have never found myself in the position or need to take the Squinty Bridge to the other side. How residents think of the south side, became very clear when I asked a local to tell me how he felt about the area. He said that friends would ask him if he ‘got his shots’ before going to the south, and he would rather invite friends who lived there over to the north, because the south would be just somewhere you would not like to go and have a drink. On the other hand, because the south is a – presumably partly because of its reputation – relatively cheap area, some also said that it is becoming a more attractive area.
Not surprisingly, the natural boundary of water and more specifically rivers seems to divide cities everywhere, also in Amsterdam. Here the role of North and South is reversed, with the South looking down on the North. The city of Amsterdam is split by the IJ, an important water way for trade shipping from and to the North Sea. Therefore, the construction of bridges is nearly impossible due to the fact that they would have to open almost all the time, or have to be sky high. The result is a ferry service, which runs indeed very frequent and is free for everybody, but nevertheless makes the threshold to go to the North (Noord) higher, although the geographical distance is relatively short. Moreover, by southern citizens Noord is seen as a residential area for the rough working class. But again, this is changing and processes of gentrification are also taking place here, because almost every other neighbourhood is becoming too expensive for the average citizen to live in.
Difference is also made based on other natural features. In the Netherlands for example, The Hague has a part that has been built on sand, and a part that is built on moor. The richer inhabitants live on the sandy part, the poorer on the moor part. Moor was perceived as bad soil for building and the source for many health issues, what resulted in the working class mainly residing in these areas. The wealthy were of course able to go to better areas. And whereas in the Netherlands distinction based on height differences is hardly possible, in Glasgow you can find traces of these kinds of divisions. According to some of the people I spoke to, Park Circus is only reserved for the wealthy that can literally look down upon the surrounding neighbourhoods and have a magnificent view on the city.
It is interesting to be aware of how a geographical situation may lead to certain images about the areas and its population. Moreover it is remarkable to see how the physical environment shapes the social environment. The people of ancient Greece already noticed this and argued that climate would have an influence on people’s behaviour. But that boundaries, both natural and artificial, do have a lot of implications for people that are exposed to them, is one thing that we can be sure of.
By Rosa de Jong
Isla Cunningham looks at Glasgow’s reaction to the current refugee crisis. She explores what the city, as well as Glasgow University, is doing to help those making the dangerous journeys for a safer life.
Europe is facing one of the biggest migrations of people towards its borders in history. 60 million individuals worldwide have recently been displaced from their homes, either by human rights violations, prosecution, terrorism or general conflict. Certain governments have tackled irregular migration by tightening border controls. Subsequently, the EU borders have become the most dangerous in the world. More than 350,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, and at least 2,500 have lost their lives trying.
Cameron’s announcement to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5 years falls embarrassingly short of the efforts of other EU countries. In one day this year, Germany accepted 10,000 Syrian refugees. Cameron’s argument is that to accept more would be to encourage migrants to make the dangerous journey to the UK. However, this ignores the thousands of illegal immigrants who have already made it to the UK – as well as those in Calais – that are forced to trespass the channel tunnel because the UK government will not issue them a visa.
Attitudes towards immigration in Scotland are more positive than the rest of the UK. 27% of Scots think immigrants can have a positive influence on society, compared to just 22% of Brits. Glasgow is a city that owes its existence to migrants, a fact which seems absorbed into our collective conscience and is evident in the response to the refugee crisis so far. 14,000 people showed their support on the “Glasgow Supports Syria” Facebook page, and many Glaswegians are doing everything they can to make sure the migrants and refugees that do reach the UK feel welcome.
Interfaith Glasgow is an organisation that promotes the integration of new migrants, refugees and Asylum seekers into Glaswegian culture. I attended an event of theirs called the weekend club in Pollokshields where new migrants and refugees were invited to take part in interactive language lessons in Glaswegian slang and share international cuisine.
Between activities people exchanged pieces of language from their mother tongues, tips about their favourite sites and places to visit in Glasgow and stories about the journeys they made to the UK. I spoke with an Ethiopian who made the journey to Italy by boat. “I will never in my life forget that journey, everyday I wake up and thank God that I made it”.
Its founder, Mohammed, explains that this is more than just a weekend club: “it’s not about victimising anyone. Glasgow has a rich history of immigration so it’s about letting new migrants know: we’re all the same, we’re all in this together, you can feel at home here.”
Volunteers at interfaith are not only drawn from a cross section of religions, but also ethnicities and generations. Mohammed recalls: “when I first started this programme three months ago I applied for volunteers and thought I would get maybe a few responses, but the results were amazing – I had people contact me from all over the country, that response really moved me and continues to encourage me now”.
Two of the volunteers are a husband and wife who used to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. They joined Interfaith Glasgow to combat extremism, which they said: “thrives off of the feeling that you are alone and unwelcome – the Weekend Club is a programme that tries to combat that”. The volunteers at Interfaith are brought together by a fascination with difference of culture and a genuine determination to break down barriers and establish connections with people.
At Glasgow University too, there has been a tangible response to the Refugee Crisis. Glasgow announced at the beginning of this academic year that it would be awarding four fee waivers, one for each of the colleges. Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “We are facing a major refugee crisis in Europe and, as it has done so many times in the past, the university community is responding in a meaningful, tangible way.”
The University has recently renewed its membership to CARA, the Council for At Risk Academics, formed in 1933 by academics and scientists. It was through CARA that refugees fleeing the Nazi regime were offered accommodation during the Second World War.
Mohammed and Joury (names have been changed) are a husband and wife who decided to leave their positions as lecturers at Damascus University when the Police asked them to report names of students who were “potential troublemakers”. Mohammed said “They said it was either you or them. The campus was turning on itself. It was brutal, merciless. Academics were targeted by the state and Isis alike.” Thanks to CARA, they are now Phd students at Glasgow. Muhammad has chosen to write his thesis on teacher development and Joury on refugee education, hoping they will be able to put their skills to good use when they return.
Professor John Briggs, Vice Principal, remarked: “I am proud that the University reached out and helped Mohammad and Joury – but I know there are many others who need our help.” Indeed, with 450,000 refugees expected to cross the Mediterranean and arrive in Europe next year, the crisis does not look like it will be over soon, and the University and Glasgow as a whole will be called on to continue offering protection.
To support CARA or any of the organisations mentioned you can visit the GRAMNet pages of the University website.
By Isla Cunningham
“Can I just have a quick smoke first?” grins the ever-charismatic Gregor Hunter Coleman as we approach him during a break in his busking set one Friday afternoon. Gregor, we note, is something of a local celebrity in Glasgow nowadays, having become an almost permanent fixture in the city centre.
“I’m out here busking every day,” he confirms, glancing around the bustling street. Arduous as though this might seem – braving the biting Glasgow wind to bring covers of popular songs to the masses – Gregor is by no means alone in this game. Glasgow is, in essence, Scotland’s busking capital. If it’s not a slice of pristine indie pop greeting your ears as you ascend the steps of the Subway station, it’s a tuneful accordion or triumphant saxophone. Voices drift along every street, singing songs both jaunty and mournful. It seems there’s room for every genre in this thriving metropolis.
Despite his dedication to the trade, Gregor’s quick to inform us that performing on the street isn’t without its problems. “All my stuff broke yesterday so I had to replace it,” he says of his equipment. He also tells us that busking at night carries an element of risk – when darkness descends, there’s an increased chance of people stealing the day’s earnings from your case. He knows this from experience.
Nonetheless, Glasgow’s busking scene suits him well. “Busking’s the only time you get paid what’s 100% yours,” he tells us earnestly. His statement rings with truth – playing in the middle of Buchanan Street doesn’t incur any agent’s fees, after all. Busking has also awarded him plenty of valuable opportunities. After hearing him play in the centre of the city, a woman requested that he play at her wedding – in the Lake District.
Any pre-wedding jitters?
“It’s a big day”, he smiles. “If I ruin the songs, then…”
It’s worth betting he won’t ruin the songs. In any case, Gregor’s certainly establishing himself within the music sphere, his endeavours now extending beyond the realm of street performance. He has gigged with Nicholas McDonald, Motherwell-native who was placed runner-up in 2013’s X-factor, as well as reality TV personality Jake Quickenden. He’s also aiming to get his band truly up and running, with their first show due to take place on December 18 at the 02 ABC.
Life could’ve been quite different for Gregor had his family gone through with plans to relocate to Dunoon when he was younger. He reckons he’d “literally just be a farmer” by now. When asked what he’d like to do in future, Gregor smiles coyly. “I just want to busk and see what happens.”
It’s a similar story for Jackson Harvey. The twenty-one-year-old once busked every day, but is now channelling most of his energy into The Modests, a band he’s been with for seven years. On the occasions he comes into the city centre armed with his guitar, it’s for enjoyment purposes only. He’s graduated to venues now, having played “everywhere in Glasgow… except The Hydro.” We probe him to tell us about his favourite venue. “It depends what you’re looking for,” he responds sensibly. “The 02 Academy is great for the ‘big venue’ experience”. Meanwhile, he thinks Box offers a nice intimate atmosphere. Jackson’s foray into the music world began upon the realisation that he’s too uncoordinated to be a footballer. “I’m not ambidextrous,” he laughs. “I can’t play with either foot.”
Halfway down Buchanan Street, a crowd has gathered around Glasgow-based duo Wandering Sons. The song they’re playing is not just toe-tappingly good, but a real foot-stomper. It transpires that it’s an original: the first track on their new album, which can be downloaded from their Facebook page for free or picked up in physical form for £5. The original music is delightfully interspersed with an energetic rendition of Florence and the Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love.” Though technically proficient, Wandering Sons may strike as being decidedly unorthodox. Their guitar case is adorned with rubber ducks; the drummer, David, has forgone a proper drum kit in favour of plastic buckets.
The band’s history, it seems, is as interesting as their aesthetic. Lead singer Barney (20), originally from Belgium, met David through Church, and the pair formed as a two-piece in 2012. Despite their talent, Wandering Sons embody Glasgow’s trademark self-deprecating humour. Starting out, they considered themselves “the worst musicians out of [their] whole friends group.”
It is soon revealed that their first time busking was in the Lake District, their efforts being met with a fairly enthusiastic response. “I think people were just being polite,” Barney says modestly. They admit that busking on Glasgow’s streets presents some challenges. It has been so cold on occasion that Barney has had to wear fingerless gloves while playing guitar. They’ve taken big risks for the band – quitting their day jobs and higher education courses – but things seem to be working out for them. They’ve toured mainland Europe and are beginning to gig seriously now, co-headlining shows with an Australian artist.
“We just do this and play gigs,” the boys say. “We love it at the moment… We’re making what we need to live.”
The band began to perform on the street after seeing others do the same. They praise the Glasgow busker scene very highly. “I don’t think I’d be busking [if I hadn’t moved to Glasgow]. There’s no busking scene in Belgium,” Barney muses.
As we approach Anna Shields – one of the only female buskers we’ve seen all day – we note a sign advertising a gig at the 02 Academy on the 11th of October. Clearly she’s doing quite well.
“The first time I went busking my mum wouldn’t let me go by myself,” Anna says, recounting her first experience performing in the city centre. Consequently, her brother stood and watched her from the side that day. “I made £12… I was so excited!”
Though Anna busked “for the fun of it” back then, she’s got bigger things on her mind now. She formed a band at the start of the year with her boyfriend – who plays guitar – and their bassist friend.
When asked if Anna suffers at all in such a male-dominated industry – and, indeed, within a male-dominated band – she doesn’t give the answer we’re expecting.
“It’s actually quite good for me,” she says. At this point, she begins to talk about the male buskers who garner attention on the basis of how they look. “When people see us, they’re coming to see the music. People are there because they want to listen to us,” she explains.
Like the others, Anna is picking up gigs in a number of Glasgow’s venues. She’s played the legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah hut on two occasions already.
Any hopes for the future?
According to Anna a CD is now in the works, due for release next year. She’ll have to juggle this with the music degree she’s studying for at the University of the West of Scotland. “Even if I don’t make it as a musician, I still want to be involved in the industry.”
If you hadn’t been born and raised in Glasgow, do you think you’d still be doing this?
“I would probably still be doing music – but probably not to the extent I’m doing it,” Anna tells us. “The Glasgow scene is the best for buskers… It has the best busker scene in the UK.”
This is a view echoed by Alexander, a Polish saxophonist who moved to Glasgow four months ago. He too has an extensive musical catalogue: besides performing in Buchanan Street alongside his guitarist, he has also played various gigs during his time here. He doesn’t seek out these shows as such – Alexander seems quite content with busking for the moment. “We live from music,” he says poignantly. “Busking is enough.”
Finally, we meet a guitarist who goes by the name of Mike. Mike’s still “finding his feet” on the busking scene, but his story’s a fascinating one. “God made me want to start busking. I used to run a lap dance club, but I had a dream one night… And now I sing to God. The songs and the words are for God.”
By Morgan Laing
Enter into Broadcast: a laid-back space with open fireplaces glowing from every TV screen, an impressive list of White Russians on a blackboard and friendly faces in every corner of the bar. A steep and narrow stairwell will take you down to the hidden underground. The roof there is so low you can barely stand tall. The room is so small people have to crowd to see the stage. Everyone clutches his or her plastic cups of beer in eager anticipation.
Then the music begins…
Kathryn and Calum are the founders of The Basement Sessions. They met when they were playing in the same band and remained good friends. In the beginning of 2015, they noticed there was a lack of live music in the Glasgow nightclub scene and decided to change that. Even though Kathryn is a full-time student in events management and Calum both works and plays his own music, they have managed to make their vision of bringing live music into a club setting come true. Today, The Basement Sessions arrange monthly gigs in the basement of Broadcast.
Kathryn: It is quite nice for the shows to be a bit of a treat. Once a month is perfect.
Each night gathers around 130 visitors, eager to see handpicked bands from the Glasgow music scene.
Kathryn: The music scene is very vibrant in Glasgow. Right now, the techno and the garage scene are trending. But despite all the trends, there is always a place for live music. In the past 50 years, there has been a decline of it. But the last ten years, it has started to increase again. Live music is just something that will never die. It is just a completely different experience.
The Basement Sessions’ nights are always free. This makes it possible to move freely. You can go outside, come back in, sit upstairs for a while and then go back to listen to your favourite band. In addition, you don’t have to commit a full evening: you can pop in on your way out or on your way home. If you don’t like one band, you can come back and listen to the next.
Lately, Kathryn and Calum have started to move away from the one-man acoustic acts.
Calum: It doesn’t grip people on a Friday or Saturday night. People want to have a good time and dance. But we organise other events as well, so there is space for all kinds of different acts. We want the crowd to have fun and to feel free to move around like in a club with a DJ.
Kathryn and Calum have been involved in the music scene of Glasgow, so it has been quite easy for them to find great talents. As Glasgow is a small city, many bands are friends with each other and are willing to support one another. Their selection of bands is based on a mixture of word-of-mouth, Soundcloud, music blogs or the bands contact them on their own. They work hard to create a musically coherent night, with three acts: two bands and a DJ that complement each other. The DJ plays a big part, as their job is to wrap up the night. They can interpret what the crowd wants and knows how to create a fun and entertaining environment.
Kathryn: We are not specifically looking for certain types of bands. It just comes down to what we enjoy, what we think will be received well by the audience. The Basement Sessions is a place where people can discover new talents.
Calum: We want to make a really good night for people to have fun. We don’t wanna loose sight of what we are doing now: giving up-and-coming local bands exposure.
In the past, The Basement Sessions have had themed nights, of which one was a hiphop special that attracted many people and talented musicians. However, Kathryn and Calum’s best memories are from a mini festival they arranged earlier this year in August.
Kathryn: We did a mini festival, showcasing the best bands and DJs that had performed for us so far. Alongside, there were some local artists and local clothes brands. It was a celebration of all the talents Glasgow has to offer. It became a huge success. It is nice to bring different talented people together. Everyone can network, learn from the event, from each other and gain new experiences.
If you want to brighten up your Friday night and experience something groovy: get off Netflix, change out of your pyjamas and grab some friends. You can still make it. It only begins after 11 pm. Head down to Broadcast on Sauchiehall Street for a night of dancing and sweet tunes.
By Sofia Linden and Saara Antikainen
‘Let’s Talk’ Providing Safety and Support on Campus
Sexual violence and discrimination are never acceptable, and a group of students at Glasgow University are making a positive stance to challenge sexist action and assault. The campaign, ‘Let’s Talk’ is a joint initiative built upon the foundation of varying societies who provide campus support and outreach including GU Amnesty International, Sexpression, Isabella Elder Feminist Society, GU Feminist Society and GU Mental Wealth.
Asking Glasgow University to build a communication system for reporting rape, make necessary resources available to survivors and provide education on bystander intervention, ‘Let’s Talk’ hope to launch a campaign that will actively support safety on campus and involve Glasgow in UK-wide university pledges against sexual violence.
The launch of ‘Let’s Talk’ will take place on 3rd December at 6pm in the Queen Margaret Union. The evening will include a screening of acclaimed documentary ‘The Hunting Ground’ about rape culture on US campuses, an introduction by Sarah Bacom, a talk by Ailish Carroll-Brentnall from Sexpression and Rape Crisis, and the launch of the petition to the university outlining important demands. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of campus reform from the ground-up.
Tickets are free and available online at lets-talk-campaign.eventbrite.co.uk
By Heather O’Donnell
I would wet my tights for him in puddles,
so that he might notice the way my toes curled
and be distracted from the fact that
I don’t know how to carry my teeth.
My eyes are positioned perfectly
for him to notice just how blue they are,
but, his gaze is fixed to the buds which bloomed
earlier this summer.
Him? Him sitting alongside me?
He is a child, with pointed hair.
Spiked to a crown,
the king of our castle
in his clammy cardigan.
And with sweat soaked hand he might stretch,
and cautiously touch my shoulder,
which I have let slip, like a secret,
pale and sly from its strap
so that he might not see the way
that I don’t like my face today.
But, never mind.
He stinks of Lynx
and adolescent self loathing
and his clothing is what was picked for him.
And I am Bambi,
in ridiculous heels that make me ten feet tall
yet I still feel small
and all they play is House
yet I don’t feel at home.
But, never mind.
that one day that crown will thin
and fall on to his pillow.
And I know,
that he is a rabbit
caught in the flashing lights
which caught my carefully crossed arms
and he likes the angle that I make.
I would like to preface this essay with an offering of #notallmens to ward off the twin menaces which haunt articles such as these: the demon of wilful misunderstandings and the phantom of hurt feelings. Let me say now: I am of course not talking about all men, because most of you are genuinely wonderful sparkly little beacons of light who deserve nothing but warmth, affection and very good sex for the rest of your sparkly little lives. However, some aren’t; so please excuse me.
#notallmen #notallmen #notallmen #notallmen #notallmen #notallmen #notallmen #notallmen
Thank you. Now we can begin.
As we all know, there are men in the world who will drag a girl down a dark alley and rape her. There are men who will lock a girl in a bedroom at a party and rape her. There are men who will purposely drug a girl or get her blackout drunk so they can rape her. This is terrible and horrible and I feel all sorts of hideous ways about it, but it’s not what I’m going to talk about here, for the following reason.
You and I know these men are bad men. I have no doubt that the majority of these men know they are bad men. Unless you’re a bona fide psychopath, you don’t commit these horrible acts without knowing that you’re doing a Bad Thing.
However, there is another class of men who also do Bad Things but who genuinely believe that they have done nothing wrong. These men have the potential to cause just as much harm as our straight-up Baddies, and these men worry me more because I know them. I’ve met them. I have, on occasion, been friends with them. And so have you.
These are the men for whom the Yes means Yes laws were instated. These are the men who take a woman’s silence as agreement, for whom reluctance is a form of flirtation, for whom a quiet ‘no’ is a token resistance, for whom quite a few ‘no’s are just a barrier to be pushed through. These are men that assume that because a woman is kissing them, she’s consenting to everything else. They aren’t violently holding down their partner and their partner isn’t screaming and crying but it is still wrong.
When I was seventeen and drunk and making out with a guy, and he continued doing what he was doing even after I said ‘no’ a bunch of times and tried to push his hands away, I didn’t think I’m being sexually assaulted. I thought, oh, I guess we’re doing this now, and even though I don’t want him to be doing this I also don’t want to cause a scene so I suppose I’ll just let him.
The next day there was no doubt in my mind that he hadn’t done anything wrong. If I’d really not wanted him to do it, I’d have screamed, right? I’d have pushed him off the bed or smacked him in the jaw. And I’d kept kissing him while saying no to his hands in my pants, because I’d still wanted to kiss him, so I guess he just thought I was fine with it. And anyway, I didn’t feel particularly upset, so what’s the big deal?
I didn’t think about this again until a couple of years later, when a friend was telling me that a similar thing happened to her. The difference was, she did feel upset about it, tremendously and rightfully so: she had said no and he had ignored her. We agreed that this person was a bad person who had done a bad thing.
And then I thought about that night when I was seventeen, and thought Oh.
Why hadn’t I felt at the time like the guy who had stuck his hands in my pants even after I said no was a bad person? Why hadn’t I felt like he’d done anything wrong? Looking at the facts, I knew he shouldn’t have done it, but I had a hard time attaching the label rape or sexual assault to something that made me feel less like I’d been violated and more like I’d been forced to go to a party that I didn’t really want to go to but ended up having an OK time.
Art by Terri Lee
In the end, it doesn’t matter that I hadn’t felt violated; plenty of women would have, and quite rightfully so. But this demonstrates why there are otherwise normal, caring, good guys out there studiously ignoring a lack of consent without realising they’re doing anything wrong, because it happened to me and at seventeen I didn’t even realise it was wrong. I just figured that’s how things go.
Where did we both get the idea that that’s ‘how it goes’? Why on earth did I feel like it was OK for my protests to be ignored, and why did an otherwise good guy feel OK ignoring them? The problem lies in what straight men and women are taught – explicitly, by countless dating guides and the pick-up artist movement, and implicitly by our media and culture – about how men and women (should) behave regarding sex. This is why I’m phrasing this piece in terms of men and women; of course rapists aren’t all men and victims aren’t all women, nor all sexual encounters heterosexual, but a big part of what leads to the situations I’ve described is the way straight men are socialised in our society.
How many films glorify men who keep pursuing a girl after she’s expressed her disinterest? How many tell men that they can indeed get the girl if they just keep trying? Many of them focus on ‘getting’ the girl in terms of a romantic relationship as well as a sexual one, but serve to create and reinforce the idea of the man as the pursuer and the woman as the pursued – which is just a softer, cuddlier, Hollywood-endorsed version of men as the predator and women as the prey.
We have all been taught by the media, by our culture, that the man should be the aggressor, that he should ‘escalate’ the situation. Men have been taught that women might seem reluctant or put up a ‘token resistance’ but that they shouldn’t be disheartened, it’s just how girls are! So innocent! So coy! Just push a little more! Don’t give up!
Please. Give up. If a woman says no, listen to her. If a woman seems reluctant or uncomfortable, ask her about it, or slow down, or pull back; give her the space to express her desire and don’t keep pushing for something you aren’t absolutely certain that she wants.
Women, express your desire! If you want to have sex with someone, tell them. Show them. Ask them. This largely isn’t our problem to solve but playing hard to get when you genuinely desire someone fuels the idea that consenting women have to be hunted, pursued, and pushed in order for a guy to get what he wants.
As I said, I don’t think most of the men doing these things are bad men by any means. They are good men who need to be taught better. This was a difficult essay to write because it’s a difficult situation: I’m aware that the modern dating game is largely predicated on these harmful gender roles and it can be difficult to escape from them. We’ve all been born into this patriarchal culture. No one alive now is the source of the problem, but we can stop perpetuating it by no longer buying into antiquated notions of how men and women are supposed to interact.
As long as our men are taught that they are the ones who must push things forward, that women will seem reluctant in order to fulfil the cultural requirement for girls to be innocent and good; as long as women do sometimes put up a token resistance in order to get what they want without being judged; as long as the discourse around one night stands and promiscuous sex remains buried in the assumption that men are the hunters and women are the prey; as long as we maintain that ‘boys will be boys’ and fail to hold them accountable for their actions; as long as we demean men by insisting that when it comes to attractive women, they just can’t control themselves; as long as we demean women by failing to see them as sexual actors, aggressors, women who know what they want… This will keep happening. And no matter how I felt that one night when I was seventeen, it’s not OK. I know better now.
Hopefully, soon, we all will.
By Lauren Jack
If you have any thoughts or experiences surrounding this complex issue of sexual consent please head over to The Grey Area our anonymous forum and help us raise awareness of this difficult problem and affect change within it.
It’s been six and a half years since the last time Metric paid Glasgow a visit and one might be wondering whether the Scottish crowd has forgotten about the Canadian four-piece after such a long time. But as soon as Emily Haines and her band take over the stage, after an outstanding support set from Dublin duo All Tvvins, all doubts are immediately blown away.
Even though the O2 ABC is not sold out, from beginning to end the audience is dancing, jumping, and singing along and Metric do their best to keep them happy and entertained. From being dressed as mystical creatures during the intro, and wearing giant illuminated sunglasses in the dark, to Emily Haines’ multiple outfit changes, including a fluorescent neon cape and huge black glittery wings decorated with multi-coloured lights, there’s absolutely nothing they have missed out on. And the fans clearly appreciate all this effort by heating up the atmosphere and after about half an hour into the set, one can even spot the people in the back dancing along.
Albeit just having released their new album “Pagans in Vegas” in September which is, as expected, heavily feature tonight, nearly every song gets the same sing-along response from the eager audience no matter if it is their latest single “The Shade” or “Help I’m Alive”, one of their biggest hits to date.
Determined to keep the crowd on their toes, the credits for the energetic live show especially go to guitarist James Shaw, with his fast, fulminant guitar solos and 41 year old singer Emily Haines who dances and jumps around in high heels, hot pants and a sexy corsage that puts every 20 year old to shame.
After about an hour the band leave the stage only to return a couple of minutes later supported by loud “one more tune”-chants and pick up exactly where they left off, pleasing their fans with four more songs: “Empty”, “Celebrate”, followed by an acoustic version of “Gimme Sympathy” which especially manages to wow everyone in the O2 ABC.
Finishing off the show, with “Breathing Underwater”, an anthemic disco-number and every member of the band smiling, dancing and getting the most out of their instruments, ensures that everyone leaves satisfied – but sweaty.
After more than 15 years in the business, Metric certainly know how to put on a memorable show. And after witnessing this 90 minute adrenaline-soaked set, it is no wonder that the Glasgow crowd have not forgotten about them after more than 6 years.
By Sarah Stockinger
I am now studying Urban Geography, which involves the analysis of the interplay between human behaviour and the (built) environment, and therefore I have a special interest in architecture. The first year of my studies I found out that I was not only interested in the facades of buildings, but also what hides behind the front door. While I was exploring Glasgow, I inevitably entered the Kelvingrove Museum where I walked past the painting ‘Windows in the West’, which perfectly shows my sentiments towards the flats in the city: we all live together apart, and try to make the best of it.
As with almost every city, Scottish architecture differs from the Dutch. Whereas in the Netherlands, buildings are usually built with small bricks, here, in the West End for example, the Victorian houses consist of large chunks of stone. But I found one of the most interesting features of Scottish building practices when I started doing fieldwork for my thesis. This involved posting leaflets in mailboxes to announce my presence in a neighbourhood. I was startled when I found out there are no mailboxes on the outside of closes. Of course, later I discovered that you actually have to enter the close to post anything. This raised some questions, since one entrance to a close had a sign saying not to let in any strangers. The placing of mailboxes outside might decrease the risk of unwanted guests entering.
Apart from the appearance of the buildings, the housing policies and housing stock of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands differ significantly. Whereas in the Netherlands, the social housing stock comprises the majority of the housing market, the contrary is the case in the United Kingdom. The Netherlands is actively trying to decrease the share of social housing. Bearing this in mind, it struck me that the Guardian devoted on the 23rd of September a 15 page long special in their paper to the promotion of social housing. It is strange that both the promotion and decrease of social housing seem to have the same outcome or at least imply that that is their purpose: improved social cohesion.
How can the decrease or increase of social housing improve social cohesion? The idea is that more mixed communities in social, economic, cultural and ethnic terms is fruitful ground for more tolerance from every angle. In short, homogenous neighbourhoods are something that should be avoided. Apart from the fact that mixing could create tolerance, some people argue that different social groups can learn from each other and make bridging social bonds which can help people to advance further in life.
The question is of course if this is actually the case. There is evidence that mixing creates more tolerance and may result in some mirrored behaviour, but other research points out that it tears up local communities when, in the Netherlands for example, social housing is replaced by private rental or owner-occupied housing. The flipside is that deprived areas know a lot of problems, and that interventions have to be made somehow. Whether social mixing is the one and only solution has to be discussed. One of my respondents in the Netherlands said: ‘What if you had done nothing?’. Indeed, a lot of times in these restructured or regenerated neighbourhoods the situation is improved in quantified terms. But often this also means that the ‘problem’ has moved to other or more peripheral areas.
Avril Paton – Windows in the West
Currently in Kelvingrove Museum
By Rosa de Jong
Review Jamie xx, O2 Academy, 17.10.15
Entering Jamie xx’s sold-out show at the O2 Academy on Saturday – part of his European-wide ‘In Colour’ tour – one is unsure what to expect from him. Will he be performing a live show or a DJ set? Will he be showcasing only his own material or also that of others? The Young Turks label head – real name Jamie Smith – appears as an enigmatic figure in the world of electronic music. He finds himself positioned somewhere in the middle-ground that separates the scene’s proudly underground artists – those who are firmly immersed in club culture and care not for global fame – from those who have embraced the mainstream and adjusted their sound accordingly to appeal to a wider audience. Despite sharing both similarities and differences with both sides of this spectrum, Smith’s work is neither representative of the average underground club DJ nor the average EDM act.
Regardless of this, his musical talent is undisputed. A string of solid EP releases, a critically acclaimed rework of the music of Gil-Scott Heron, and two masterfully atmospheric albums with indie band The xx all culminated in June when he oversaw the release of his first full length solo album, ‘In Colour’. The album was received positively although failed to encapsulate his full capabilities as a producer.
Revered selector and local favourite Spencer is on warm-up duties tonight. It is a surprisingly dreary two hour set from the Numbers label co-founder and one that only really comes to fruition in the last fifteen minutes or so when two upbeat, old-school New York house numbers are preceded by Italo-disco classic ‘Take a Chance’ by Mr Flaggio. Finally, Smith takes to the stage, to rapturous applause, and the sounds of his steel-drum laden ‘All Under One Roof Raving’ slowly filling the venue. Sample-heavy and paying homage to 90s rave culture: both the tempo and mood of this track are ideal for the opener and get the crowd moving accordingly.
Sadly, the tone and the quality of music takes a turn for the worse shortly after this. Some mundane piano house is followed by a couple of big-room tracks – fitting for the inappropriately oversized venue – that comes complete with EDM-esque crescendos and an overblown light show. As if attempting to steer his set away from the mainstream EDM road it is now heading down, Smith drops two ‘90s UK Garage tracks in quick succession. The latter, ‘138 Trek’ by DJ Zinc, ought to throw him a lifeline but the venue’s sound system allows for only a fraction of the song’s euphoric nature to be captured. The remainder of the set seems to be filled with Smith to-ing and fro-ing between mainstream crowd-pleasing tracks and throwing in something with a degree of obscurity to illustrate the depth of his musical knowledge. For someone endowed with such a degree of musical ability, the overall performance is distinctly off the mark. It gives the impression of someone who is not at ease in his current state of limbo between underground and mainstream and it appears his live performances could be taking a hit as a result.
By Michael Lawson
On a rainy Wednesday afternoon in November, we are invited to Barrientos’ Studio on Union Street in Glasgow. Behind a mysterious door with a sign saying ‘Illyus’, we find ourselves in a cosy studio. It feels like a time capsule: sound-proofed from the on-goings of the outside world and with dimmed lights that blur the concepts of night and day. One of the walls is lined with synthesizers and opposite stands a large computer screen. Over a large mixing table, a couple of his vinyl EPs hang on the wall. We sit back in a comfy leather sofa and Barrientos shoots us a relaxed smile from behind the coffee table.
Barrientos is not like any DJ we have met before. When we ask him about his life at the moment, his first complaint is not having a bigger kitchen.
- I love to cook! I never even allow my girlfriend into the kitchen. There is simply not room for two people in there.
We laugh at the breaking of gendered roles and our prejudice that Scottish people only eat ready-meals and take-out food.
- My mom is Chilean, so I have grown up with homemade food. My mom hates ready-meals. She scolds me and still asks ‘Are you buying ready meals?’ to make sure I’m eating healthy. Anyway, I can’t eat crap food otherwise I can’t concentrate.
Barrientos has an unusual background for a DJ. He grew up in Glasgow, with an English father and Chilean mother, and fell into classical music at an early stage in life.
- When I was in high school, I played classical music, so I spent a lot of time learning piano and flute. I used to go to the music school, RSAMD, The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. I was really into classical music.
The gap between classical and dance music may seem distant, but Barrientos’ musical development began in his early teens, when visiting the music festival Rockness:
- A DJ called Erol Alkan was performing in a tiny tent, with 400-500 people. He was completely in control of the crowds. Everything he did the crowd appreciated. I had never seen anything like that before. It was very tribal and he was really into it. I got shivers watching it.
From that day, Barrientos knew that he wanted to DJ, but his parents thought he needed something safe to fall back on.
- I only wanted to do music, but my parents told me I couldn’t rely on music because it is an unstable career. At the time I didn’t want to hear that cause I had my mind made up, but my parents were just looking out for my best interest.
Even though Barrientos has been a DJ for ten years, he has still managed to finish an engineering degree, a medical master and now he is in the middle of a PhD.
- It really freaks me out that it has already been 10 years since I started doing dance music. You need to be persistent. You need to know people. You can’t expect to have gigs if no one knows you. I always make sure I am nice to people so that they remember me as a nice person.
It certainly has been a long journey for Barrientos. His first gig took place in the basement of Nice’n’Sleazy’s, and after that, it was a steep learning curve. He never had anyone tell him how something is done, so he had to learn to use all the computer software himself, by reading magazines and watching tutorials on Youtube. After a while, he made more contacts and the ball started rolling. Rob Etherson from the duo Mia Dora listened to his tunes and gave Barrientos constructive feedback. Blogger Colin Brownbill of SynthGlasgow loved his music and promoted Barrientos on his blog. Finally, Mylo’s former manager Kevin McKay heard his mixtape for SynthGlasgow and offered him to remix Romanthony.
Today Barrientos has reached international acclaim with tours to London, Ibiza and Austria, but he still loves the Glasgow scene.
- It is such a ridiculously good city. It has a really appreciative crowd. If you come to a gig and you are pretentious, you will get told. Dance music is a big community here too. DJs know each other: we support each other. People really like a good night and many DJs are coming to play in Glasgow because of that.
It is difficult not to like Barrientos. He is an extremely talented, but humble person. When he talks about his music, he stresses that it is not about him but about the crowd. Just like his first experience of dance music at Rockness, his music has always contained a social element.
- For me, writing music has always been for people, not for me. When you are having a club night, it is about people’s experience and their night. They appreciate your music and they are having a journey. I always try to remember that. I don’t want to be too self-indulgent with music.
We tell him it must be difficult to stay grounded after playing to crowds of 7000 people.
- I’ve got friends who I have been friends with for years now and they always bring you ‘back to the ground’. It’s so good to have honesty around you. Also, playing to larger crowds you can kind of play anything to certain extent. With a smaller audience, you can see more reactions and if they lose interest they will leave. If you are going to the right direction you can see them get into it, you see they are enjoying it and filming it with their phones. It is more personal. I like to stay to the end, shake hands with the audience and chat to people.
Barrientos’ has recently thought more and more about what direction his music should take, which has resulted in some major changes.
- You begin to realise the more you DJ and who you DJ with, the type of music that you like. I realised we weren’t playing our own music anymore. The music was going back to more like a European sound. But, it is difficult to change a sound entirely, so we have worked hard in the studio and slowly changed it. We have been writing so much. I am predominantly a writer: I write the music and Illyus is the head of production and styles the sounds. We are planning for next year at the moment cause it is not long left.
Next year is packed with amazing new releases that you won’t want to miss with singles on Suara Records, Toolroom Records, and Glasgow Underground, plus a compilation CD called Toolroom Live 04 with Technasia and Ramiro Lopez.
A strong ‘80s-style diva voice emanates from the speakers as Barrientos plays us one of his latest tracks. It is clear that he has put a lot of work into it. There are over 40 layers in the track and each sound is styled to perfection. We immediately find that we can’t sit still to this kind of music and start to long for a dance floor.
To be a successful DJ is more work than you can imagine. We begin to wonder if Barrientos ever feels like he wants to give up in the face of the competitive music scene.
- Music is still fun for me. The last year it has become more serious, which is good. Even if I never get to the stage of having a career or doing it full time, I will still do music. If not DJing, then in some other form. For example, I devoted so much time to play piano and when it stopped, the music did not. It just changed form.
Two hours have passed while we were in the studio and chatting to Barrientos. It feels like only ten minutes. As we exit the building and enter the depressing Glasgow rain, we look forward to the GUM Launch Party on December 4th at the Art School Assembly Hall. We can’t wait to let down our hair, dust off our dancing shoes and dance to the groovy tunes of Barrientos, our very own and much-loved Glasgow DJ.
Tickets to see Barrientos perform at the GUM Launch Party can be bought at:
By Sofia Linden and Saara Antikainen
In terms of fashion, the ‘60s continued until about 1975 when the Mary Quant mini-skirts and zip dresses relaxed into Flower Power’s flowing fabrics, long hair and hippie trails. Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Boots’ turned into The Mama’s and the Papa’s warble. Fashion and music have always enjoyed an effect on one another. Fashion has a way of emulating the glamour of a celebrity high life in the everyday person, when they dress up to go out on the weekend. However, the costume changes of ABBA’s Benny and Bjorn weren’t readily available to all, so there was still a hint of the ‘1950s wardrobe among folk – thick wool skirts, well-made but demure to the point of being monastic. The ‘50s may have swung in Elvis and rock’n’roll but it still held onto the notion that you were children until you became adults – and if this was the case in life – it was similarly so in fashion. Male or female, you moved from consciously childlike clothing to replicas of your parent’s wardrobe, and often, their way of life.
However, with the ‘1960s came the Pill and along with it: the idea that ‘the youth’ existed as separate from, and more often than not, opposite to the older generation. They were more than children, but they were not yet old. In Glasgow and other big cities across the UK, the new ‘youth’ began to decide and divide; depending on which new subculture they associated with.
Enter the ‘Mods’, those of scooter and Parker fame. If you were a mod, you’d likely wear a clean-cut suit with slicked back hair or a miniskirt, square-toe boots and sleek bob haircut. Your focus would be the fashion and music scene emerging at the time: soul, rhythm, blues and ska. On said scooter, you would be looking for a fight, probably with a Rocker.
Rocker men come clad in the leather necessities of their motor biking antics. Their hair was grown long and styled into a ‘pompadour’ (similar to Danny in Greece), their music choice was the rock’n’roll of the ‘1950s. Rocker women wore full skirts, bomber jackets and bright prints that were best if you were dancing to Eddie Cochran and Bo Diddley on a Saturday night. The hemlines were generally shorter – so were the tempers. Any chance for either group to come into conflict with the other seemed actively encouraged, with rallies ending in brutal riots, the weapons used ranging from fish hooks to flick knives and bike chains.
What about ‘60s fashion in Glasgow? If you were older you would still be living with the memories of the wartime ration book and your clothes were therefore a spend thrift patchwork of fifties and late forties style. If you were young, you would be drawn to the new commodity; affordable fashion. You would be more liberated than the previous generation – both sexually and financially – but the going was still tough and the playing was equally rough.
It is the year 1960, it’s Christmas Eve, the city is heaving with people. Alasdair Gray is teaching at the Art school and the infamous Barrowland’s Ballroom is re-opening after a fire two years earlier had destroyed it. You’re going because your parents would hate it. You’ve chosen your uniform and you’re dependant on the music genre of your vinyl record, playing in the background of your poorly lit flat. If lucky – your friend or boyfriend will pick you up on his scooter or motorbike and zip you over to Glasgow Green – but probably you’ll just end up walking or taking the last of the trams still rattling about the city. Choose your Brothel Creepers or your Mary Jane’s and let the fun, and the fight, begin…
By Nancy Hervy Bathurst
In Glasgow there is music pulsing through almost every café, pub, church and venue as well as along the streets connecting them. However, this broad range of venues might feel overwhelming, and it is easy to end up at the bigger and more well known stages like King Tut’s or Nice’n’Sleazy. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going to a big venue, but if you feel like digging deeper into what Glasgow’s music scene has to offer, GUM has a few suggestions for you to start discovering.
The Hug and Pint
171 Great Western Rd
Still one of Glasgow’s newest music venues, The Hug and Pint has been successfully wrapping its arms around the local scene since June of this year. A quick step inside the place sets you on the top floor, where you’re immediately embraced by the warm woodworking that makes up the café and bar area. If their ever-revolving vegan menu or the craft beer does not impress you, step downstairs where you’ll be welcomed by sounds of local musicians and their playful banter. It doesn’t get more intimate than standing among the instruments waiting to be played on stage – so head over to The Hug and Pint for the friendliest of feels.
12 King’s Court
Tucked away in Glasgow’s Merchant City, Mono makes innovative use out of a section of an ex-railway station. Primarily a vegan café, the wide-open space fosters creativity through ample table space, arched ceilings, an in-house microbrewery and an expanding record store all under the same roof. The stage is quite roomy and plays host to not just music but film screenings, book readings, and poetry nights. Though music isn’t booked for every weeknight, the Monday-Thursday food and coffee deals make up for it. This cavernous venue is full of the happenings of a welcoming community and well worth the journey!
117 Bath St
Bath Street is home to the independent venue known as Bloc. With a stacked calendar spanning all genres, avoiding this venue is a task in itself. From open-mic nights, to community orchestras, to earth shattering metal bands and their mosh pits, to club nights almost every week, you’re doing something wrong if you’re not hanging around Bloc. Did we mention all their shows are free? That means all the more reason to try their next level pub food, which is too epic not to take a picture of. Just be sure to check their house rules listed on their website before making this venture!
The 13th Note
50-60 King St
Many bands have started their musical journeys in the dusky basement venue of The 13th Note. The venue is like a small dark cave, where the audience is close to the band since the stage is not elevated. This makes the 13th note a welcoming venue for up-and-coming bands. A wide variety of genres are presented, though they usually lean towards rock, metal and heavier tunes. Be sure to play some foozball upstairs and try the vegetarian food in the cozy ivy-covered pub. For emerging Glasgow bands this is one of your go-to places with affordable gigs almost any night of the week.
The Glad Café
1006A Pollokshaws Rd
Take a bus southwards to the eclectic Glad Café, a creative hub for music, poetry, art and film. Walk through the colourful cafe to find the door to the intimate venue, which offers acts ranging from experimental electronic to indie and folk. Although it’s located far from the West End, the vibrant atmosphere of the Glad Cafe makes up for the trip. We would recommend making an afternoon of it – try the locally roasted coffee and home-baked goods in the café, before migrating to the venue towards the evening. You are sure to find something to your liking in their diverse line-up.
100 Eastvale Pl
If you are tired of the usual snug pub venues then SWG3 will give you a unique and Berlin-esque music experience. Located in an old warehouse in the outskirts of the West End, SWG3 offers electronic DJs as well as alternative live acts. SWG3 is a non-profit creative community, and within the warehouse there is an art gallery and studio space for artists, designers and musicians. If you are in the mood the venue also hosts club nights and warehouse parties in their smaller room known as The Poetry Club. This is also where you will find events with spoken word, local DJ’s and emerging live bands. It’s probably the most exciting thing happening in a warehouse in Glasgow, and definitely one of the cooler venues available.
By Gina Pieracci and Lara Sindelar
My not so guilty pleasure is grabbing a coffee and a cake at a cosy café. Luckily, Glasgow provides me with a lot of specialty coffee bars. I fit perfectly into the group that by academia is named as creative or cognitive cultural class: highly educated and occupied with a creative or managerial job. They are – or I am – part of a wider process of gentrification: the upgrading of neighbourhoods in value and amenities through regeneration. Since I am exploring urban life, I recently developed an internal conflict. Inevitably I am more or less part of the ‘gentrifiers’, but I am also aware of the negative effects of this process. In this column, I will elaborate on this internal conflict.
Wherever you go in whatever city, you will find clues that lead you to areas that are showcases of the creative culture. Some cities try explicitly to attract people that are part of this development. If you believe Richard Florida, the creative class will lead the pack to a flourishing urban economy. Explaining this theory is beyond the scope of this column, so I will give a few examples of how the hipster culture can be recognised in Glasgow, and elaborate on its implications.
The creative class wants to distinguish itself. A lot of studies and theories around the concept of distinction exist, for example by Bourdieu. The most obvious ways in which distinction can be achieved, is in behaviour in general and in consumption patterns in particular. The places of consumption where this group in society likes to drink coffee or sip their beer can often be labelled with A-words: authentic, artisanal and artistic.
How do we distinguish the creative café from the ordinary bar? Often craftsmanship is highly valued in these places: the beer cafes have their own beer brand, and the coffee shops have a range of choices in coffee beans and specials. Your coffee is often finished with a nice figure in your milk foam, such as a leaf or a heart or even more complicated ones. Glasgow houses a lot of these kinds of places of consumption. On many occasions, to enjoy a coffee or a beer in those establishments is more about the spot than about a person’s knowledge about the products.
A city is obviously not hipster proof if it doesn’t host a specialty coffee festival. And that is what Glasgow has had over the last few years. The Glasgow Coffee Festival is dedicated to the celebration of the growing vibrant Scottish specialty coffee scene. The amount of adverbs is often a clue to creativity. The venue where this festival took place is indicative for the authentic component that is part of the hipster culture: the old Glasgow fish market. Bars and cafes readily adopt an industrial feel to their businesses, to add some authenticity to their brand. This sometimes clashes with the individuality that these establishments are trying to achieve, because in the end they all seem to look alike.
The problematic part of it all is the fact that cities and their governing bodies see the attraction of a creative class as a problem solving mechanism for a lot of societal problems. But it seems to deny the fact that society exists of a lot more groups than the creative, who deserve equal attention and amenities in every area. Amsterdam for example is so successful in attracting an affluent creative or middle class, that the inner city is becoming more and more expensive to live in for the average citizen. And London has also had an uprising against a ‘hipster café’. A process of displacement that leads towards a homogeneous population in certain neighbourhoods is taking place. And that is dangerous in a way, because some parts of the city are not perceived as accessible for every resident. Although I love my coffee, and Glasgow isn’t and may never end up the way Amsterdam has, it is good to be aware of your behavioural choices and how they influence urban life. Societal balance must not get lost.
By Rosa de Jong
The general consensus is that we’re all very busy, all the time. Students get a hard time for being wasters but in reality, the hours of any given day seem to slip away as easy as our student loans. That’s where Tech Meets Paper steps in. Designed for the Type A stereotype, Tech Meets Paper is a Scottish start up attempting to reorganise your work life.
Branded as ‘Stationary that talks’, Tech Meets Paper is a line of beautiful stationary as well as an augmented reality app. The app learns to react to your hectic lifestyle, prompting you to take breaks as well as undertaking daily tasks. Think of it as a personal assistant; it can book you a taxi, remind you of a meeting or simply send you an inspirational message to get you through the day.
Tech Meets Paper understands that we are on our phones 24/7 and that we all have a lot of commitments in our lives. The multi-channel app is a unique way to deal with modern pressures most students face.
Tech Meets Paper is a Scottish, local, women-run start up that is currently crowd funding on indiegogo. Kirsty Mac and Rachel Ferguson are the brains behind the operation, with the app currently being developed in Aberdeen. It’s an exciting triumph for both women in business and technology as well as Scottish enterprise.
By Anne Devlin
“They changed the world. Not the shirt.” is the tagline for one of the biggest pushes in global advertising this year. GANT is a brand that has long been rooted in the American East Coast. What was once a lifestyle brand for the beach is now shaking off its sandy image for an international and highbrow persona.
GANT has completely revamped its advertising strategy, rolling out an international campaign for the first time in its history. Their promotional video shows how great minds of the 20th century went on to change the world, all wearing GANT shirts. The campaign also highlights how their heritage is in the veins of world-class university campuses such as the Ivy League.
It’s a bold move for a brand whose previous incarnations were more American Eagle than American pioneer. GANT isn’t trying to make a sexy campaign pumped full of celebrity faces and gimmicky clothing. What GANT is doing is saying, “We believe in quality”, in both garments and education.
What’s really engaging about GANT’s approach is who is now fronting the brand. Instead of a Kardashian or a Hadid, GANT has chosen five ‘talents’ to be the face of their print campaign. Tracy K. Smith (Pulitzer Prize Poet), Natvar Bhavsar (Painter), Mark Platkin (Rainforest Advocate), Jennifer Staple-Clark (Founder of Unite for Sight) and George Weiner (Founder of Whole Whale) are GANT’s chosen ones to promote the brand and their philosophy of quality.
Started in Connecticut, USA by Jewish immigrant Bernard Gantmacher – who had arrived from the Russian empire in 1914 – GANT was then sold on to Swedish company Pyramid Sportswear and is now in the hands of Swiss holding company Maus Frères, making it a truly international look; American sportswear with European sophistication.
The classic shirt is a wardrobe essential and GANT are essentially saying that with the right one, you can achieve anything. Their approach to advertising is an exciting and innovative one. Campaigns aimed a students have the tendency to be repetitive; assuming all students just want free stuff or to get off their faces. Invest in a shirt and maybe you’ll invest in your future.
By Anne Devlin
How to become a local in Glasgow
When you move to another city, one of the first things you want to achieve is a feeling of home, and the idea of belonging to the place. Feeling at home has both a physical and a social component. A physical feeling of belonging refers to the ability of finding your way around your new hometown, and knowing little things, such as: where the best place is to park your car and getting used noise at various times of the day. The second component involves becoming socially embedded in your neighbourhood and town. This can include random encounters with your neighbours or developing strong ties with friends during various activities, such as sports recreation or cultural events. In this piece, I give you a few signs that you are becoming a local in Glasgow.
When you arrive in a new city, your mental map of the urban environment is filled with voids. If you flip through the Lonely Planet before a plane drops you in your soon-to-be hometown, you might only have a small notion of places you must visit and the only thing you know for certain is how to get from the airport to your new room. However, as you spend more and more time in the new city, your mental map evolves into a network of places, linked through various routes. You are able to go from A to B without constantly checking GoogleMaps. You find your favourite spaces, collect memories and know where it is safe to walk both day and night.
Hopefully, you don’t limit your experience of Scotland by only staying in Glasgow. Scotland’s nature is beautiful: the lochs, highlands and forests might surprise you with a glimpse of their hidden magic. There are new impressions to be found around every corner and there is never a dull moment. After an exhausting day, during which your hand got lame because you tried to take a snapshot of every single magnificent view, you finally head back. Suddenly, you cross the city’s borders, and surprise yourself by thinking: “almost home!”, as if this new city has become your new home.
So far, I have mainly written about the physical aspects of attachment to places. But experiences are not the same when you cannot share them with others. Of course, you can share your pictures and stories with others when you return to your home country, but that’s not the same as to experience something together with the ones you miss. To become socially embedded is maybe the hardest and most stressful part of moving country. Luckily, Glaswegians are very including and tend to care about the wellbeing of newcomers. So if you go to Glasgow, you will not have trouble finding a group of friends that you can live and laugh with during your stay. For me, Glasgow was a positive change from Amsterdam, where everybody stays in his or her own bubble and does not want to let anyone in.
However, to become a real Glaswegian local is difficult for an outsider. Mastering the Sco’ish accent is by far the hardest thing to do and the main characteristic with which people can distinguish you from a real Scotsman or Scotswoman. In Glasgow, I found that there is a double language barrier: the first is the English language, and the second is the Scots. But this is the least of your worries if you have come to feel at home. And life without challenges would be boring in the end.
By Rosa de Jong
Justin Kurzel’s ‘Macbeth’ is ferocious. The film has a lot to say and it says it with such insight and ferociousness that Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ – a work so famous its mere nickname has a dedicated Wikipedia page – is once again made unpredictable and raw.
The film is faithful to the Scottish Play from first to last, but this is no straightforward adaptation. The movie is beautifully interpretative and nuanced, not bending the original narrative, but rather taking the uncertainties and hints already present in the play and weaving them together into a compelling and persuasive modern take on a much-told story.
Macbeth, an 11th century nobleman, meets three witches who prophesize that he will become king of Scotland. Spurred on by his wife, Macbeth assassinates the current monarch, then crumbles under the psychological cost of murder.
But Shakespeare’s tragedy itself is full of ambiguity and open questions, not the least of which is the murder itself. The witches have proved themselves to be reliable, so it is certain that one day Macbeth will rule. Then why does he have a feeling of urgency to kill the king and ‘catch the nearest way’?
The film succeeds due to the visceral, emotionally stirring explanations that it offers. A brief line in the play alludes to Lady Macbeth having once had a child, and boldly, the movie begins with the funeral of the infant in question. Fassbender and Cotillard proceed to give powerful performances as a couple who still love one another, but are struggling to fill the emptiness that has arisen between them. There is a newfound poignancy in Lady Macbeth’s assertion that she feels ‘now the future in the instant’. These are more than ruthless villains driven by ambition – they are people who can see no other future, and who are fighting for meaning in a life ‘signifying nothing’.
And then there is war, ravaging Scotland, and Macbeth the soldier, forced to kill. There are echoes of ‘Apocalypse Now’ in the film’s treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the way humans respond to violence. ‘I wept,’ says Colonel Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now’. ‘I wanted to tear my teeth out… and then I realized… my God… the genius of it!’ A similar idea is palpable in the way Fassbender’s Macbeth is simultaneously wounded and enraptured by his own acts of brutality.
Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, like one of its most famous lines, is full of ‘sound and fury’. To this verbal and thematic intensity Kurzel adds striking cinematography and gorgeous visuals, noteworthy in and of themselves. This is, however, both a strong point and a problem. The movie overwhelms. The images complement the dialogue for the most part, but there are times when script and visuals distract from one another – and before one has time to consider either, the movie has moved on. The pacing is relentless, and there are no pauses either in the action, or in the tone. The drunken porter of the original play, telling jokes on stage to provide the audience with a welcome break, has been cut out completely.
Had the film let its images linger on screen for a little longer, been a little slower, it might have been less intellectually and emotionally exhausting. As it stands, it does not allow enough time for one to consider the ideas it puts forward, which is a shame, precisely because the insights it delivers are so worthy of consideration. Ultimately though, ‘Macbeth’ is a brutal, beautiful movie with a persuasive point of view, and two exceptionally good lead actors. Its atmosphere lingers, long after the final credits stop rolling.
By Lisa Feklistova
Listening to Rhodes’ album ‘Wishes’, it’s fair to say that this is an introspective experience. The album takes you on a journey and it’s clear that this journey is meant to take place within- through all the suppressed memories, the subconscious emotions and the internal battlefields.
Tonight, a huge crowd gathers at King Tuts to see the man behind the music. The fact that it is a sold out show speaks volumes with regards to just how many people his music touches, and this becomes even more apparent as the atmosphere tightens the moment he sets foot onstage.
On his album, Rhodes sings and plays solo, but the ‘Wishes’ tour called for a four-piece band to support him. Despite this, Rhodes is able to maintain a stage presence as if it really were just him singing. Intimate would be a bit of an understatement, as it truly feels like Rhodes is singing to just one person and every person in the audience believes that it is them. His back up guys add that much more power to his performance and his voice rings clearer than it did on his album.
‘Breathe’ definitely stands out as it feels like it has the opposite effect of its intentions – rather than breathing evenly, it is as if Rhodes takes the breath out of the room. To say the least, he’s a captivating performer, who seems extremely comfortable in the spotlight. Yet every song is followed by a sultry ‘thank you’, with a rather shy tone – which is a bit surprising to hear after speaking to him for twenty minutes prior to the show when GUM got a chance to chat to Rhodes about getting in the right headspace, going solo, and his feelings about his debut album.
Glasgow University Magazine: How are you finding the tour?
Rhodes: It’s cool. I’m feeling it a bit now. I mean this tour has only been going for about just over a week. I know I’ve been talking like ‘oh the tour starts on Monday’, but really I’ve been touring for months. But it’s great, it just feels like every night it’s getting a little bit closer to where I want it to be and that kind of thing.
GUM: And where do you want it to be?
Rhodes: Just with the band and stuff like that, because I spent a lot of time playing on my own, just with a guitar. In my head I kind of have this vision of how I wanted it to sound. I’ve kind of created that within the production on the album and it’s about translating that to the live setting.
GUM: Has it been a really long process trying to reconcile everybody?
Rhodes: Yeah, yeah it has. Finding the right people was quite hard and going through different people is kind of hard for me to do because I get really close to people and attached to the sentimental side of hanging out with someone. Suddenly you realize it might not be working musically, and that can be really difficult. But no, these guys are amazing and we’ve been working hard. It’s tight now. The guy [James Kenosha] who produced the album with me was at the show last night and he was so pleased. He’s like my second set of ears. Because obviously when I’m on stage I can’t tell how it sounds out front so it’s nice to have somebody there who probably knows the songs better than I do because he’s literally sat there, mixed it and gone through every take.
GUM: That’s one thing with venues too- artists can’t tell how they sound on stage versus when you’re in the audience. So what do you think of King Tut’s in terms of how you sound?
Rhodes: Yeah, I’ve never played here with a band, but I always really love playing here. I think the sound guys are so good. They seem like such veterans at what they do.
GUM: Do you have a favorite city that you’ve played so far?
Rhodes: I like a lot of different places. I haven’t done that much traveling before doing this. So traveling around Europe is amazing. I love going to Paris and Amsterdam is an amazing city to play in. It’s one of those places where I had a misconception of what it was going to be like before I went- and I went there and realized it wasn’t just druggies.
GUM: I know tonight’s been rushed, but do you have a pre-show routine that you get into or something to get you in the right headspace?
Rhodes: I think it’s really important to try and switch off and leave everything behind before going on stage. I think it’s really important to leave any worries or troubles or little things you’re thinking about in your mind. It’s hard to do anything when you’re preoccupied. So I’ll probably go back to my hotel room and just read my book for a bit and just chill out for a while. I do warm-ups on my voice and make sure I’m feeling good. I wasn’t naturally singing before and I’m still finding it a little hard. It’s really important that I’m on that particular thing for that hour I’m on stage and make sure that I’m completely. My mind starts wandering on to other things and it’s horrible.
GUM: The songs on ‘Wishes” are quite personal right?
Rhodes: They are very personal, yeah. I can’t really imagine any other way. I mean I don’t really write stories. It’s more about overcoming fears, family, friends and relationships that I’ve had-not just romantic ones but more people close to me drifting apart and growing up and leaving town- things like that. All of those things I think a lot about before I start to write. I was going through this time where I felt like things weren’t really going my way, and I felt to blame for that, like it was my fault. I had to just detach myself from the world I was living in because there was no other way of me finding out what I was really supposed to be doing and where I was supposed to be because I was so caught up in this world. At the time I was playing bass in a band and just enjoying myself a bit too much. So I just detached myself and spent a lot of time on my own. I was working during the days and then writing at night- getting a lot of time to think about how I ended up where I was.
GUM: You were playing bass in another band- what was that like trying to break away from that and do your own thing?
Rhodes: It was tough because they were my best friends- they still are my best friends really. I felt like I was turning my back on them. I felt like I was letting them down and I think they were really upset. I think I dealt with it in the wrong way- my only way of really doing it was just by turning my phone off and being like ‘I just can’t face this’. So it wasn’t the best way of doing things.
GUM: Going back to your album, what was the hardest song for you to write?
Rhodes: I think ‘Breathe’ was probably one of the hardest songs to write because it’s about something so sensitive. I wrote it for a friend and it embodies the sentiment of what I was writing about when I wrote the album. It’s just that importance of being there for one another, helping people out, not being too afraid of asking other people to help you out if you need it. My friend had depression and it’s kind of hard to watch. I think the songs that I’ve written are very intentionally left open to interpretation. Some people get the actual meaning and some people apply their own meaning. I like that a lot. I’ve always liked that in music too. You know sometimes you’ll have a favorite song, and you’ll be singing along and you’ll know the words, and you’ll be like ‘oh I love this bit’ and then you read the lyrics and you realize you’ve been singing the wrong words. Music touches people in different ways and that’s the beauty of it. It’s subjective and you can take what you want. I think that’s very important. It’s not that I don’t like talking about the songs, but I prefer it when they’re just listened to- because that’s what they’re for.
GUM: Do you think that there’s a song that audiences love to hear the most from you?
Rhodes: People seem to like hearing ‘Breathe’ quite a lot. I always find it kind of hard at my gigs because everyone’s just so silent. To me I’m thinking, ‘are they enjoying it?’ Now I think they’re being silent in a good way. So it’s really hard for me to tell, but it varies from place to place- it’s quite strange.
GUM: Someone quoted you saying that ‘Close your eyes’ was a song about your own stage fright- is that right?
Rhodes: Yeah, it wasn’t so much stage fright- I didn’t have stage fright because I was always on stage. It was a fear I had of actually singing. I was so, so frightened of singing. I never even sung backing vocals. I still hate listening to myself. With the album I spent so long- so, so long recording the vocals. I kept re-doing them because I wasn’t happy with them, and I’d have all these fits of rage, crying, and all this shit. And James went off and mixed them and he ended up using some of the first few takes on every song. It just goes back to not over thinking things. Sometimes you can try and be too perfect and that detracts from what people actually like about what you’re doing in the first place. I don’t listen to my own music. I mean sometimes. I had this thing when I started writing the songs- I was drinking quite a lot at the time. I don’t drink anymore when I’m touring- otherwise I lose my voice. I used to get drunk and listen to the songs, and smoke and that was my way of feeling comfortable, listening to what I was doing. I still find it so hard listening to my voice. ‘Close your eyes’- that phrase comes from when someone said to me, ‘think of where you feel the most comfortable singing- when you’re on that stage you just need to close your eyes and imagine lying on your bed, playing your own songs. That’s kind of the mechanism I started used to cope with that. But then I thought that that sentiment can apply to so many different things, any fear, any sort of troubles. I tried to broaden the lyrics so they weren’t all about me.
GUM: Do you try to constantly write or do you take time to sit down and write?
Rhodes: I like to sit down and finish things. The idea of writing on the road sounds appealing but it’s not easy because you’re just constantly doing something. When you’re in the van it’s just cramped and it’s weird. So I do need to be in the right headspace.
GUM: Do you have any artists that you’re dying to collaborate with in the future?
Rhodes: I’d love to collaborate with someone who’s a real classic, or someone who’s a real heritage singer. I’d love to work with the National, or Justin Vernon, or something like that.
By Gina Pieracci
In today’s lively LGBTQ+ community it can be easy to think that youth culture is primary representative of the movements’ ideals. However, Open Windows, screened by The Scottish Queer International Film Festival, challenges that assumption. This documentary, about four lesbian women in their seventies, challenges stereotypes and offers increased visibility to the older generation’s past and present experience. Although the film highlights a bygone era where terms like “lesbian” weren’t common, the message of the film is progressive. Overall, it is a call for the present LGBTQ+ movement to recognize the strides lesbians made in the past and to acknowledge those strides both in policymaking and in the community.
Preceding Open Windows, the short film Are We Being Served? was screened with LGBT Health and Wellbeing’s group, LGBT Age. This short film works very well as a way of culturally linking Scotland’s individual experience to the generational LGBTQ+ issues explored in the main feature.
Open Windows begins by following the narratives of Boti, Empar, Micheline and Jocelyne from their initial realizations of being different, to the trials of finding love as a lesbian, to the battle of feeling old versus looking old. Micheline and Jocelyne portray a dual experience of uncovering their own sexualities together. They fall in love at the ripe age of 69, an experience they insist is the cure for old age. Boti and Empar, on the other hand, approach the issue of aging by addressing the mental process of paying attention to one’s sexual desires and acknowledging them regardless of age. However, the film ultimately turns towards the women’s defining experiences with activism to emphasize the need for lesbian visibility.
As part of a generation that defined the LGBTQ+ movement, the four women in Open Windows represent voices that cannot be ignored. The film gives a final message that not only do personal narratives increase understanding of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, but that communication between the old and young members of this group is absolutely vital.
Reviewed by Gina Pieracci
Catalonia is situated on the northeastern side of Spain with Barcelona as its capital, with a population of approximately 7.5 million. Spain has been highly fortunate to ensure national unity throughout its history despite of linguistic and ethnic diversification. Catalonia’s independence can therefore prove to be highly destructive for the national unity of Spain and for the interests of U.S.A, Europe and even Catalonia itself, according to some critics.
A Catalonian Kingdom has never existed; rather Catalonia has always remained a part of a bigger kingdom called ‘The Kingdom of Aragon’. However, the Catalonian language and identity has existed throughout Spanish history. For hundreds of years the idea of Catalonia’s independence has been on the cards, but Catalonian leaders have always deemed it proper to establish and maintain sound relationships with the governments at the national level. Mr. Arthur Mas, President of Catalonia and leader of one of the nationalist parties of Catalonia’s regional parliament, was an adherent to the national government a few years back, but after the public’s demand for independence he has become a campaigner for the ‘yes’-movement.
The residents of Catalonia have an uneasy relationship with Spain. Without any doubt, the modern state of identification with Catalan culture and language is a response to Franco’s repressive rule over Catalonians decades ago. Current Catalonian politicians and two previous generations have grown up in this repressed Catalan environment, which has affected their way of thinking about independence. Furthermore, school curriculums have unveiled the horrifying history of Catalonia that consists of how Franco suppressed the Catalonians during the civil war. Moreover, political and economic turmoil in Spain has paved way for enthusiasts, like Mr. Artur Mas, who are ready to burn the midnight oil to secure Catalonia’s independence despite setbacks.
Catalonia’s independence is not an easy process as there are several blockades in its way. One of the major reasons is corruption. The mentor of Artur Mas, Pujol, was involved in a corruption scandal. As a result, the promise to the general public of clean and fair politicians is under threat. Additionally, a huge proportion of the Catalan population prefer Spanish as their mother tongue, in contrast to a minority, who still speak Catalan. If Catalonia secures independence, the Spanish speakers might not appreciate the change and consider migration to Spain. Another setback for the ‘yes’-movement is that the political parties of Spain have not advocated Catalonian independence. There has been no Spanish Prime Minister, in decades, who has raised a voice for independence. The central government supports Spanish national unity.
Recent polls have revealed a widening gap between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ voters. Polls stated before the referendum that 50% of the population would vote ‘no’ whereas 43% would vote a ‘yes’. This reminds us of the Scottish referendum in 2014, in which 55% Scots voted ‘no’ and 45% voted ‘yes’. A few weeks before the Scottish referendum, it was believed that the ‘yes’ vote would win, but the results turned to ‘no’. Therefore, independence movements are not easy.
As the most indebted region of Spain, Catalonia has already acquired several bailouts from the national government even though this region has a 20% GNP share in Spain’s national account and injects more taxes into Spanish economy in contrast to the revenue it shares. Even if Catalonia secures its independence from Spain, it would have to face a major part of Spanish debt, which it would need to pay in the future. Furthermore, the hunt for a new currency would not be easy, as Spain has the authority to veto Catalonia’s membership in the European Monetary Union. Deprivation from NATO’s membership might prove to be another nail in the coffin if luck does not favour Catalonia.
To achieve Catalonia’s independence, Arthur Mas and his team have to prove how the ‘yes’-movement can bring prosperity in people’s lives and how all the hazardous consequences can be dealt with. Patriotic assertions alone cannot convince the majority of the people to support this movement.
By Ali Zain Bhatti
The new academic year 2015/16 is approaching swiftly and Glasgow University Magazine is excited to release new issues over the coming year with engaging articles on far-reaching issues. If you are an aspiring writer or journalist, this is a wonderful opportunity to get your writing published and see how the oldest student magazine at The University of Glasgow is run. Send us a piece of your writing (approx. 800 words) by September 1st and we will be in touch.
They that when we’re younger we’re more left-wing, radical and have a greater desire for change but as time goes on, that desire fades and we’re left wanting to spend our time doing crosswords while watching Countdown and eating After Eights.
This trend was highlighted following the 2010 general election, when throughout their entire campaign the Liberal Democrats insisted they would not raise tuition fees only to do so when elected as the parasitic member of our current coalition government. This resulted in a protest of 50,000 students in London’s Trafalgar Square in November 2010 and another when the bill was passed a month later. These protests echoed across the country in places like Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham, creating the largest student movement in Britain in our lifetime. Although the movement was undermined by episodes of violence, it nonetheless proved that students have a voice and will mobilise. Even though tuition fees were raised anyway, the movement had such an impact in Westminster that Nick Clegg released an apology video…though admittedly the only good thing to come from this was the auto-tune remix on YouTube.
A place we can see student protests having a real impact is in Hong Kong. In 1997 Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred to the People’s Republic of China where the government promised they would retain the territory’s capitalism and partial democracy. However since then China has resisted granting Hong Kongers full democratic rights. Despite the lip service of strong global outcry, as always, there has been a vacuum of response. This was highlighted in August last year when China said people could only vote in the 2017 leader election for candidates put forward by the government. This is playing the democracy game, but by China’s rules, and it consequently sparked a series of protests last autumn. Main roads were blocked off and government buildings occupied. The majority of protests were organised, run and carried out by Hong Kong’s students. Authorities were under the spotlight for their appeal to repressive tactics and were even criticised by the Chinese government after excessive violence and use of tear gas. Although Hong Kong’s experience was not on the same scale as the pro-democracy protests of Tiananmen Square 16 years ago, these students are having a profound impact not only on their government but also on their constitution. Although we do not face the same struggles here in the UK, I would like to believe that if ever we did, we could demonstrate a similar level of resilience, unity and nerve as those on the frontline in Hong Kong.
It’s not only in recent years that students have made a significant impact in politics. The civil rights movement in America was helped greatly by the efforts of young black students in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960. Tired of being oppressed by white people and the law, four African American freshers at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University staged a sit-in at the ‘whites-only’ section of a Woolworth’s café, deterring business for the company and forcing desegregation. These sit-ins quickly gathered momentum and were emulated across the United States, with similar civil disobedience taking place in Virginia and Tennessee. Protesters were heckled and even dragged out and beaten on the streets by policemen. With the unrest captured by the broadcast media, the news quickly spread around the world during a tense period in the Cold War. This allowed Lyndon Johnson to get Congress to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and end the lawful discrimination of African Americans, arguably the greatest achievement in American twentieth century politics. Leaders of the Civil Rights groups at the time were trying to gain equality through court cases and a lengthy legislative process, but it was the students who pursued immediate results and ignited the spark that revolutionised the attitudes of the nation.
These historical and contemporary issues allow us to recognise that as students, we have the potential to play a vital role in politics all over the world. When united and committed, we can achieve extraordinary things. In an era of widespread apathy and political disillusionment, I hope that everyone at some point during their university experience gets involved in some kind of political activity, even if it’s just voting in the general election in May. It is all too easy to forget the crucial difference that our participation can make.
Will there ever be a time in which travelling communities are not members of a misrepresented minority, excluded from the rest of society? This was the question many travelling showmen during the Clyde Gateway regeneration project that was completed in Dalmarnock as part of Glasgow 2014. One of the three themes of the Commonwealth Games’ legacy was ‘inclusion’. That so many showmen (a travelling fairground community) felt that they were excluded because of their ethnicity is troubling in a modern democratic society.
Clyde Gateway is an ‘urban regeneration company’ that was created to revitalise parts of Glasgow for last year’s Commonwealth Games. There were undoubtedly improvements made in the Dalmarnock area. However many people questioned the fairness of Clyde Gateway driving local people from their homes. This sparked a huge debate across the United Kingdom and heavy media coverage surrounding the tenants. However, travelling showman communities in the area did not receive the same media coverage. Their sacrifices went unknown and they were left voiceless victims of discrimination.
In a world in which so many claim that political correctness has gone mad, it’s hard to believe that travelling communities would experience discrimination. After I discussed the issue with members of the local travelling community, it became clear that it was not necessarily being asked to co-operate with Clyde Gateway that they objected to, but the way in which they were treated throughout the moving process. Many were moved from the sites they occupied, starting over a period of ten years prior to the 2014 Games and continuing to this day. The only site licenses they could acquire meant they had to live in industrial estates. At first they were told very little about their future circumstances, despite the majority of them owning the land they were being moved from. They had unreasonable conditions set on the new land they occupied and were excluded from regeneration maps. They also felt that the way they were spoken to on many occasions was disrespectful.
These attitudes toward the travelling community are reflected throughout society. Travellers were protested against when they tried to move into a different area, received late payments after their re-location and told by their local MP that they were not his concern. Linda Johnson, who is the co-owner of a showman’s site just outside the Dalmarnock area, claims that this process has encouraged a negative view of showmen. She feels that this has created major setbacks in their assimilation into the wider community: ‘Clyde Gateway has knocked my people back twenty-five years!’
Roy Thomson, a local showman, demands action against this type of behaviour: ‘Westminster and Holyrood need to take more notice of organisations such as Clyde Gateway, their racist and discriminatory, almost stone-age approach is…worrying’. That anyone could be made to feel excluded and discriminated against in the twenty-first century is morally repugnant.
On the train to Edinburgh one Sunday morning last October I was reminded of the scene in ‘Miss Congeniality’ when in response to the question: ‘What is the one most important thing our society needs?’ girls, playing ‘Miss America’ contestants, all answer ‘world peace’.
Yet there I was going to a UN conference on peace; a concept that even a chick-flick had satirised as too farfetched. Men, women, intellectuals, students, charity workers and members of the media were coming together to discuss peace and there was no gold embossed sash in sight. Instead, there was a genuine feeling that peace may actually be possible. The tone of the event did not suggest the pursuit of some farfetched utopia, but a realism that recognised the enormity of the task ahead. As Rukiyah Khatun from the Tutu Foundation said, ‘you need a sense of humour and patience, because without that you’re not going to get anywhere’.
Telling someone you’re talking about peace is a bit like saying you’ve been contemplating the meaning of life. The reaction will usually be similar – a look of confusion followed by a statement along the lines of ‘well, everyone knows world peace is impossible.’ However individuals such as Rukiyah Khatun, Michael Doherty (Director of Peace and Reconciliation Group of Northern Ireland) and Richard Barnes (from the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolition) together put forward a powerful case for why it is a crucial conversation for us to have.
Khatun reminded us, ‘we tend to think that peace is the normal situation, but as we look around; fighting is the norm.’ In looking at conflict in places such as Palestine, South Africa and Northern Ireland, a conference like this makes you realise that unrest is not always in distant lands. Michael Doherty’s comments about finding an undetonated bomb a week ago in his hometown of Derry brought this home to us. On sectarian unrest in Northern Ireland, he said, ‘It’s not over, it’s far from over.’ Doherty began to fight for peace after his car was blown up by the IRA: a powerful example of how personal experience can motivate action. In response to a question on how someone can get involved in peace-making, Khatun said, ‘find the thing you’re angry about and just stick with it… if you are that angry you will find a way.’
Listening to Rukiyah, Michael and Richard Barnes speaking about South Africa, Northern Ireland and Palestine, they made it very clear that being passionate is essential. As Khatun said, ‘we are the soldiers for peace here… it is a thankless task’ and in order to do it you have to find your passion.
Peace-keepers seem to be the elusive optimists in a conflict who, in the case of Richard Barnes, tirelessly continue to rebuild houses the fifth time, and then will return, without hesitation, to build them for the sixth after the bulldozers return. Barnes, when speaking about the Palestine-Israel issue mentioned a phrase used widely in Israel: ‘mowing the lawn’. It refers to a tactic used by the Israeli military to control Palestinian confidence when they seem to get a bit too big for their boots. As Barnes attempted to explain, having your house repeatedly bulldozed is a situation almost impossible to comprehend.
Yet, there we were, peacefully in Edinburgh, attempting to understand what a ‘peace-maker’ does, and coming to terms with the complex and sometimes tragic state of the world without being depressed. Sometimes it is a case of admitting defeat, but most of the time it seems to be to smile, pick up another a brick and start building again.
The history behind Hinduism’s happiest festival and how it is celebrated right here in the west end of Glasgow
Every year our Hindu community illuminate Glasgow as they unite and celebrate Diwali, Hinduism’s biggest and brightest festival. In previous years, Diwali celebrations have been nothing short of spectacular. From fire jugglers and fireworks to traditional Indian dancing and storytelling, Diwali immerses Glasgow in vibrancy and excitement. Diwali is known as the Festival of Light and represents the start of the Hindu New Year.
Diwali literally translates to ‘row of lights’. It lasts for five days with the leading festivities taking place on the third day. Diwali commences on the thirteenth day of the dark half of the lunar month, Ashvina, and ends on the second day of the light half of Karttika. This corresponds to one of the main themes represented by Diwali, the transition from darkness to light where darkness signifies ignorance and light signifies knowledge.
The similar theme of good triumphing over evil also holds great importance during Diwali, emanating a joyous atmosphere throughout the celebrations. This past year, the third day of Diwali was celebrated on October 23rd.
The festival of Diwali has a vast and vibrant history and its origin is rooted in Hindu mythology. One of the most memorable reasons for celebrating Diwali is in commemoration of the Ramayana. This historical tale honours RamaChandra, the seventh incarnation of the god Vishnu. It is believed that on this day Rama returned to his Kingdom of Ayodhya with his wife, Sita, after fourteen years of exile in the jungle. During this time he fought and won the battle against the demon king Ravana, who had kidnapped Rama’s wife.
At home, Hindu families irradiate each room with candles and lanterns and enjoy firework displays as the light symbolizes Rama’s victory over the evil Ravana. Bathing the home in light is said to dispel anger and ignorance, and more importantly, glorify the divine light of God.
Another prominent aspect of Diwali is the worshipping of goddess Lakshmi. She is the female counterpart of Lord Vishnu and is known as the female energy of the Supreme Being. As well as embodying beauty and purity, Goddess Lakshmi also means ‘Good Luck’ so is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual. Hindus leave the windows and doors of their homes open so that Lakshmi is able to enter. Rangoli patterns are also drawn on the floor near the entrance of homes. Rangoli is a type of folk art from India created from coloured rice, coloured sand and dry flour. The most popular Rangoli pattern of Diwali is the lotus flower. This is because images of Lakshmi traditionally show her either holding a lotus or sitting on one and so this particular Rangoli design is said to encourage the goddess to enter the home and bring good luck for the New Year.
With Diwali marking the Hindu New Year, the day is viewed as a fresh start. It is traditional to clean the house and exchange gifts between family and friends. It is also auspicious to buy silver jewellery for the women of the house. Although the meanings of Diwali, its symbols and rituals, and the reasons for celebration are innumerable, this day always remains a joyous one for those celebrating. The Hindu Temple in Glasgow, located at La Belle Place, was the hub of excitement for the Glasgow Indian Community this Diwali.
Families of all generations, students from India and visitors gathered at the temple to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Divas (clay oil lamps) were lit by everyone and allowed us to remember and reflect on the purpose of this festival. Grand offerings of sweet delicacies were also placed before the Gods.
The priest then invited all devotees to worship the Divine Goddess Lakshmi to achieve blessings of wealth and prosperity. The atmosphere throughout was one of joy and happiness as families, friends and strangers greeted one another. The Diwali celebrations spilled into the night with a spectacular fireworks display in Kelvingrove Park, enabling all participants to commemorate their faith openly with pride and joy.
During the lead-up to Diwali, all Glasgow schools are invited to visit the Hindu Temple and participate in what can only be described as an Extravagant Diwali Workshop. Female pupils dress up in saris, bangles and bindis while male pupils learn the art of turban dressing. There are yoga sessions and Bollywood dance lessons, with teachers joining in the fun. The pupils can also visit the worship area where the priest presents a basic knowledge of the Hindu religion coupled with a brief definition of what the deities represent; allowing students to learn about Hinduism and the significance of Diwali.
The Hindu temple opens its doors to visitors all year round, encouraging people of all faiths to enjoy the festivals and celebrations of Hinduism. Without the community of Glasgow, the unity and joy that echoed throughout the temple this Diwali would not have been possible so thank you to all who celebrated.
‘The first casualty when war comes – is truth.’
Sebastian Meyer repeated these well-known words during his speech at the UNAE conference in Edinburgh. Though first spoken nearly a century ago by US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson, amid the settling dust of WWI, these words hold true today.
The media are first in the firing line when accusations of misrepresentations of situations are thrown around. They are accused of covering up the truth, denying it, or refusing to publish it. The photos we assume are largely accurate, how can you fake a photo? – Unless it is a disastrous editorial mistake that prints a Sheikh’s picture rather than an accused terrorist. (I am sure you are aware of the situation I am talking about).
It is true that you cannot fake a photo. However, you can orchestrate and coordinate a photo. This, Sebastian Meyer explained, is what ISIS has been doing. They have ‘orchestrated massacres for the media’, taking photographs of them, selling these to western photo associations who then sell them onto the newspapers that you see on your walk to work or read over a morning coffee.
The image accompanying your coffee is propaganda. It is there to induce fear and encourage citizens to demand that their government does something. Meyer asked the audience a difficult question to fathom: Are these news agencies acting as ‘unwilling foot soldiers of ISIS helping to share propaganda?’
It also leads us to consider the role of media bias. Meyer explains that it ‘is very important for me in conflict not to pick sides’ and warns us that western media outlets have. ‘We’ve picked sides and that’s a dangerous thing to do’.
The role of the media in contemporary conflict is to show war in all its horrors. Meyer explained this succinctly by saying ‘if my photos do not show war to be scary then I’m not doing my job properly.’ While the 2D image is ‘silent, still and not temporal… war is 3D, it is coming at you from all sides.’ War, Meyer, explained is also unbelievably loud. It’s louder than you can ever imagine. When looking at a photograph of conflict depicted in a paper with a gentle burble of the radio in the background, the overwhelming sound is almost impossible to imagine. Meyer made sure we understood that ‘war is nothing like beautifully framed photographs.’ Keeping images accurate is something Meyer explains he really struggled with, telling us that that his photos of Afghanistan sucked. He said, ‘the reason my pictures suck is because there is no sense of fear.’
What I understood Sebastian Meyer to be articulating was that while we cannot understand the horrors of it, his job is to try and make us begin to comprehend. The role of the media is to explain what is going on outside of our comfortable bubbles and to help us understand the real purpose of photography. The point instead is reminding us that the picture – while it shows us a 2D snapshot, a hundredth of a second of war – cannot even begin to convey the full meaning of a situation. Meyer explained that when artillery fire is replaced by lounge jazz in Starbucks, sometimes a photo is not enough. After the disappointment of his photographs from Afghanistan, he opted to take a sound recorder and film camera when he travelled to Libya. In order to try and explain the importance of sound, Meyer showed us a video of an explosion in Libya and later played the audio clip.
I speak for myself when I say that it gave me goosebumps, the sound was overwhelming and thunderous initially. This moment of fear, different to the fear experienced by those experiencing the situation first-hand, is a disconnected feeling. Instead it is close to the fear felt when you are scared in the cinema or waking up after a bad dream. You are frightened, alarmed and uncomfortable but ultimately you know that you are safe.
Meyer shows that despite technological advances that can document and broadcast live, the fear that one feels in a war zone is impossible to properly communicate to western audiences. Only when we are there in the middle of it will we be able to truly understand. Until then we need to thank the photojournalists and news agencies that continue to give us a glimpse of what is going on.
‘An act of resistance or rebellion; a revolt’.
Events in Hong Kong have once again thrust this idea into the international consciousness and the world has looked on as thousands have joined the protests against China. Looking back at previous movements however, the success of such efforts can be questioned. Is change ever truly possible to achieve or are these countries forever chained to the injustice that has plagued their history?
The past decade has witnessed the escalation of political upheavals across the globe, with varying degrees of success. Born out of determination to propel their nation in the direction of fairness, mass gatherings have sprung up, with thousands of individuals pushing for change.
Looking to Europe, Ukraine has often been at the forefront of such movements, with the ‘Orange Revolution’ being one of the most significant. Following the Presidential election in November 2004, thousands took to the streets to protest against Viktor Yanukovych’s victory, claiming electoral fraud and demanding a re-vote. The subsequent election was deemed to be ‘fair and free’. Ukrainians had got the result they wanted. In theory this result was meant to be Ukraine’s turning point: an opportunity to move towards becoming a democratic state. Yet in the years following, change seemed slow moving and those who were involved in the revolution became increasingly disillusioned. Confidence in the newly elected President waned and not long after taking up office he was forced to sack his Prime Minister over allegations of corruption. Relations with Russia also became increasingly strained and the economy was hit hard during the recession that rocked Europe in the late noughties. The Ukraine that existed post ‘Orange Revolution’ was a far cry from the one envisioned by the thousands who demanded change. The lack of profound change was laid bare by the result of the 2010 presidential election when Viktor Yanukovych claimed victory, six years after he was denied victory in the previous election. The legacy of the ‘Orange Revolution’ calls into question the chances of genuine success following an uprising.
Ukraine is far from being the only country to experience an uprising in recent years. The Arab Spring movement shook the Middle East for almost two years and saw many leaders ousted from power. Perhaps the most significant of these revolts was in Egypt, where thirty million people took to the streets. The end result saw President Mubarak resign, bringing an end to his near thirty-year rule of the country. Similarly to Ukraine, this outcome led many to hope for profound change. But three years on from the uprising Egypt has struggled to make the transition to democracy. The country’s first civilian president, Mohammed Morsi, was removed from power after only a year and many fear that Egypt’s current President will oversee a return to the authoritarian approach that prevailed under Mubarak. Long gone is the optimism that intoxicated those who took to the streets and with two elections in three years, political stability in Egypt appears a long way off and democracy even further.
The legacy of past uprisings leads us to question such movements. Temporary change may be achieved but long lasting political stability and democracy is an elusive goal. The equality that so many desire is often lost in political battles and it’s the people who suffer in the process. Uprisings are an important movement and peoples’ voices are heard however it’s often the aftermath that speaks the loudest.
Submotion Orchestra are a seven-piece band, with soulful vocals and smooth jazz solos, however, they contain a surprising element — dub.
At 8:50pm on the 7th of November, King Tuts Wah Wah Hut was buzzing with excitement.
Submotion Orchestra, an outfit hailing from Leeds, started their tour of their third album, Alium, at King Tut’s. There was definitely a sense of anticipation in the air. The band came on with lead singer, Ruby Wood, entering last. Her sensuous vocals reverberated through the room, and suddenly, the floor began to vibrate with a deep, smooth throbbing.
Electronica is a typically unconventional pairing with jazz and soul. The band says on their website that their sound is a ‘fusion of bass heavy electronica, jazz and soul’.
Since their first album (Fragments, 2009) their music has followed this unique amalgamation of sounds, gathering a large crowd following with tracks such as ‘Finest Hour’ and ‘Blind Spot’. During the performance, the band plays their much-loved song ‘All Yours’, to which the crowd sings back. Ruby’s vocals were engaging and she regularly checked up with the crowd and kept the energy high.
They also played a variety of songs from Alium, including the energising ‘Trust/Lust’ and the mellow ‘City Lights’. Their sound did not deviate so much from their other albums—during an interview I conducted with Tommy Evans, the drummer, he stated that it was more ‘an extension’ of their last album.
The band made sure to include many jazz solos in their live performance. Bobby Beddoe regularly blew every fibre of his being into his trumpet, providing the audience with sleek and exuberant intervals. Tommy on the drums provided eye-watering, fast rhythms, occasionally having his own solo and leaving the crowd more than impressed. Despite being a relatively large band, throughout the performance they were tight and everything ran smoothly with the help of the band’s producer and engineer, Dom Ruckspin. There were a lot of synthetic tracks on the album, which added to the performance and enhanced the electronic element of the sound.
After their encore, the band politely wished the audience goodnight. I turned to my friend and we discussed the undoubtedly great performance that we had just witnessed.
Alium is out now.
The result is in. An independent Scotland is a no go. Plans for Scotland to lift off from the rest of the UK have been terminated, at least for the short term. Some Scots are relieved with the result, some are frustrated and some just don’t know what to think. So what now? Well, that question really depends on the Scottish population. The politicians have made their pleas and promises but realistically no major change is coming to Scotland unless public pressure reaches breaking point. It’s up to us to decide whether we want everything to keep chugging along as usual or instead look back at the referendum for some inspiration on how to proceed.
If only one key message could be taken from the entire referendum process, it should be that more people will be active in the democratic process if they feel their voice matters. The referendum was different in that people felt they had a say in their future for once and as a result, there was energised debate and a soaring turnout. Usually in Scottish Parliament, European, general and council elections, your representative’s face changes, but little else does. When the issue is political alienation and not political apathy, we should start looking at possible alternatives available, which were hinted at during the campaign.
The Yes campaign mobilised a significant grassroots movement and produced organisations such as the Radical Independence Campaign, Women for Independence, Labour for Independence and Generation Yes. While all this wasn’t enough to win over the majority of voters, it set a good precedent in how to reach people who feel disengaged and alienated. This is especially true in Glasgow, where turnout is typically low for elections but rose to 75% for the referendum. Therefore I am suggesting, that if more community organisations are set up in these disenfranchised areas and local issues start to be addressed, we might witness the rise of an increasingly engaged electorate that is ready to participate nationally.
Also important to note was the residual reaction to the referendum result. SNP, Green and Scottish Socialist Party membership increased dramatically and a ‘We are the 45%’ online movement was created in the first few weeks after the referendum. These developments are significant but need further developing if they are to have an impact on the political scene. Popular mass movements don’t spring up from nowhere, which is why there are a growing amount of committed and organised activist groups working in solidarity with one another, trying to form a solid foundation of activism to build upon.
It is practically a truism now that the majority of the population are fed up with the current political system, irrespective of allegiances either to Scotland or the UK as a whole. However, the challenge is getting people (like myself) motivated to give up their time and effort to change these institutions they have become so estranged from. Participation in and out of Parliament, reformist and direct action, can all be effective if there is enough willpower behind it. So the question we really should be asking ourselves is, how committed are we to our own democratic ideals?
Directed by Christopher Nolan, interstellar was this Autumn’s blockbuster. Involving intersecting themes of the importance of family ties, the struggle between nature and human control and love defying time, the film is ambitious in its content and form and won’t leave you indifferent.
Interstellar is set in a pre-apocalyptic era on earth where food is scarce and extreme changes in climate jeopardize humanity’s survival. Protagonist Cooper: loving father, and former space pilot, is enrolled to go on an interstellar adventure, having to leave his children behind, in search of a planet that can sustain life.
The film by Christopher Nolan was undoubtedly going to be discussed and controversial – Why? – Well, this is a Christopher Nolan film, and used to be Spielberg’s project before passing it on to Nolan. Just like any of his films, Nolan likes to deliver a definitive work of art, to play with the viewers’ mind and feelings, and to titillate the most skeptical of us – any memory of Inception’s final scene?
Interstellar created a real fuss in the distributors’ area with the option of viewing in six different formats: Digital, 4K Digital, IMAX, 35mm film, 70mm film, IMAX 70mm film (ordered by ascending quality). You, dear audience, will have the dilemma to choose which format to watch. Just like Gravity, Interstellar will suffer from a later screening in DVD or Blu Ray, so, try and see it on the big screen as it was intended to be!
I found the film brilliant, but not flawless. The opening statement is original: Earth is not hospitable. It is implied that mankind is the reason for this ecological disaster, but the real threat here is Earth itself.
‘Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here’, states Cooper. ‘We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt’.
If one of the subthemes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, was to wonder about ‘how far should man go’, Interstellar wonders about ‘how far could man go’. The implied statement here being that man is a pioneer, and explorer, and that there are no boundaries to the knowledge humans can acquire. Yet, the comparison with 2001 stops there. Kubrick’s film was more of a quiet book of images demanding high involvement to notice the connotations, while Interstellar is a popular entertainment aiming to inspire people with off-the-cart visual imagery and wordy monologues. The vastness of space has always been a vector of introspection. By being such a grandiose show, Interstellar could lack some individuality. Where movies such as Solaris (2002 remake by Steven Soderbergh) depend completely on its characters, Interstellar does not fully reconcile intimacy and greatness. It is interesting to notice that both films are cradled by Dylan Thomas’ poems. Coincidence? No, thank you, sir.
This slight lack of focus on the characters gives the impression of an unfinished performance by Matthew McConaughey. While a couple of scenes (no spoilers) truly take your breath away and make you want to cry out loud, McConaughey does not reach the grandiose he had in Dallas Buyers Club and Mud. McConaughey is a tremendous actor, his performance in Interstellar is solid and relevant, just not as fascinating as it could have been.
Some may argue that Nolan skims over some aspects of the script, especially in the last act of the film (which is unusual for a film that lasts 2 hours and 49 minutes). Fulfilling, tiresome, mind-blowing, non-credible, you name it. But do make your own opinion of it. We will still be talking about it months from now. In a film messing with our mind by talking about quantum mechanics, time-relativity and the fifth dimension, there was one simple message: love is the one thing that transcends time and space.
The Chinese economy is the fastest growing and the largest in the world. The reasons for this outcome, however, often remain misunderstood by the majority of observers. A common misconception is that Chinese government intervention in the markets has facilitated the steady growth the Chinese economy has experienced in the past few decades. In reality, it all started at the Labour Conference in 1978. Deng Xiaoping delivered a speech presenting his idea of socialist economy with Chinese characteristics with a ten-year action plan. In particular, the rules created by Mr Xiaoping’s government broke from the approval of Chinese control authorities.
The decisive turning point in shaping the Chinese economy was at the beginning of the leadership of Deng. After his speech, his policies failed. Chinese citizens stopped complying and started resisting the personal and legal norms set by the regime. This was crucial for China to become an economic miracle. Disobedience began in the villages where production communes disbanded and were transferred to independent family entities, which were farming the land. However, this does not happen with the consent of the government. On the contrary, the collapse of collective farms was strictly prohibited. The authorities in charge of compliance with the law and order in the State realized the emerging potential for development. Hence, they deliberately ignored the policies of the headquarters in Beijing. The government’s instructions were disobeyed by local authorities that instead took steps more in keeping with a liberalized market system. The rule breaking of the countryside gradually spread to private industries in the cities. Many organizations continued to act on behalf of the government but their management was taken over by private companies. This change began in the agricultural sector and was anything but accidental.
Deng Xiaoping has always stressed the leading role of the Communist Party. Although China’s the relaxation of China’s economy has often been attributed to the CCP’s reforms, the real reason for the deployment of the free economy is largely coincidence. Since 1978, when the unexpected market liberalization began, China has been enjoying economic prosperity. The country succeeded only because people did not obey Deng’s policies.
Today, the Chinese government aims to revitalize the state’s role and increase market intervention. In other words, it is taking an approach contrary to that which has been delivering prosperity for decades. Forbidding private enterprises access to credit as well as placing restrictions and prohibitions on international companies is the main obstacle to foreign investors and local entrepreneurs trying to enter into the modern Chinese market.
Only time will tell whether the political leaders of Beijing are going to continue on the current path or realize their mistake and continue the Chinese economic miracle.
It’s an age where we’re supposedly concerned with healthy eating, everything in moderation and regular exercise. Channel 4 seems to delight in the many weight-obsessed shows such as Supersize versus Super skinny and Embarrassing Fat Bodies, which fascinate and repulse us in equal measure. So you would think that we would finally have gotten the balance right. Wrong.
I went for coffee with a friend recently, although ‘going for coffee’ is a term loosely used. I had a caramel latte and (note the pronoun) he had a protein shake. His hands were shaking, and I’m not an intimidating person – he later admitted to me that he was on fat-burning pills. Apparently this was one of the side effects.
It sounds surprising, and all the more so because said friend is a man. But actually, it’s not uncommon nowadays for men to become obsessed with their weight, to begin calorie counting and caring a little, a lot, or too much about what the mirror and scale are reflecting on any particular day. It seems that, as a society, we’re not good at seeing it as a problem, much less understanding it. And to make the situation all the more difficult to deal with, it seems to be much more of a taboo for a man – especially a hulking, heavily built man – to seek help. For many, it seems as if it’s not even in their vocabularies.
In this supposedly health-conscious society, ‘body dysmorphia’ is a term, which is easily, bandied about- it’s just not one we usually extend to large, muscular men. I have several female friends who have dated men like this, and who bemoan the time spent in the gym rather than with them and the obsessive eating habits. Worse, we used to laugh at the photos posted online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it), finding them utterly ridiculous. But imagine being in this situation – spending all your time, energy and money obsessing about your looks, body and weight, missing important events and avoiding certain foods and restaurant situations at all costs. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s something we associate with anorexia or bulimia. But there’s a new term for what is a sort of reversal of anorexia (although many of the signs are the same): muscle dysmorphia. The Internet even has a nickname for it: bigorexia.
The nickname may sound ridiculous but the effects are anything but. Muscle dysmorphia afflicts at least 10% of male bodybuilders, and they describe themselves as chronically anxious that they appear puny and weak – but it’s hard to obtain accurate statistics, given the fact that there are many who won’t admit to it. Harrison G. Pope Jr. MD. of the Maclean Psychiatric Research Leader in Belmont, Massachusetts has described Muscle Dysmorphia as a sort of anorexia nervosa reversal. He thinks that men are beginning to feel the effects of the idealised images society projects, and if you look at the changes these images have undergone; from (big but still attainable) body shapes such as James Dean and John Wayne to the ridiculously large body shapes of Rambo and the Terminator, it’s easy to see how this could be a growing problem.
As yet, there is a gaping hole in the fields of comprehensive studies and research into muscle dysmorphia. This also, unfortunately, means that help is rather limited. These are men who are pushing themselves with punishing workout regimes, sometimes in spite of injuries or other work and social commitments, and some report the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids in an attempt to get bigger. For most, the lengths these men go to are not only extreme, but also practically unimaginable. Edward ‘Spyk’ Gheur, a former Hollywood stuntman, used to consume 10,000 calories per day, and spent six hours per day, six times a week in the gym. Frankly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
There are misconceptions abound here: that these men do not need help, or that they are simply vain. Reportedly, normal weightlifters admit to spending forty minutes per day thinking about body development. Men with bigorexia find their thoughts occupied by such concerns for five hours or more daily.
As a society, it is time that we realise that the images we project effect more than women. Everyone is vulnerable, whether the person in question is an 8-stone woman or a 16-stone man. When we look at the scales or in the mirror, just when are we ever going to get it right?
Can the Passport, the new BlackBerry product, bring the once declining company back into sight? The share price of BlackBerry has increased more than 45% since last year. However, this improvement in share price is largely due to severe redundancies and the company’s revenue is still stagnant.
BlackBerry position the Passport as a portable and stylish phone, which can keep up with the busy life of a businessperson: getting multiple things done at once. The executive of BlackBerry, John Chen, is positive. He said that the Passport sold out in-store while Amazon shipped more than 200,000 orders. However, when compared to the ten million iPhone 6 units sold in its first week of release, things may not be that positive. Reviews are often negative: the two-hand typing is awkward and the application of apps is far from what iOS or Android provide. The saturation of the software market makes it too difficult and too late for BlackBerry to enter a demanding consumer market.
In the face of formidable competition from Apple, BlackBerry struggled but finally decided to target business users instead of the whole market. This seems wise because focusing on the professional market should help BlackBerry to earn quickly and seek more market power. As a result, the Passport is designed with business users in mind. It retains the physical keyboard and high battery life, its 4.5 inch square screen is perfect for spreadsheets and documents, and it has a Siri-beating assistant through which users can instruct the phone to locate their work diaries. These are strong designs for professionals, but will these core features make a difference? Look back to better times, when BlackBerry accounted for one in five smartphone sales in 2008. The crucial difference was BlackBerry’s unique messaging services and secure software.
Blackberry’s failure cannot only be attributed to Apple, but also to their rejection of the trend: smartphone entertainments. Now, traditional BlackBerry is losing market power, iPhones and Android use a more advanced messaging network. Historically, the service fees accounted for most of BlackBerry’s profits, however the service fees were costly to many corporations so alternatives were found; for example, American corporations encourage staff to bring their own devices to work. Now profit from service fees is declining 15% each quarter. If BlackBerry wants to focus on the business market, they need to rethink their consumer needs.
John Chen did a lot to revive BlackBerry and the results are beginning to take shape. A simpler organization with a clear market position and smarter finances construct the basis of a bright future. Review the success of Apple and Samsung, stay in tune with the market and always be creative. These are the golden rules for BlackBerry to emulate.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and death camp in southern Poland where an estimated 1.1m people died during the Second World War. Of those killed, the majority were Jews while the remainder included Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people and prisoners of conscience.
Last autumn I visited the camp as a guest of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET). Launched in 1988, the HET is a charity that aims to ensure that generations of young people today do not forget the atrocities that occurred at the camp and others like it across central Europe. The HET’s Lessons from Auschwitz project aims to increase awareness and understanding of the Holocaust and remind people what can happen when racism and prejudice become acceptable. The Trust is partnered with secondary schools and colleges around the UK and strives to enable as many pupils as possible to travel to Auschwitz. The day I went I joined almost 200 sixth-form students from the west of Scotland. Students subsequently build on their experiences by sharing them within their communities.
Our day began with a stop in Osweicim, the small town where the several camps that comprise Auschwitz-Birkenau are located and where a local Jewish community had lived prior to the war. We visited a cemetery where the gravestones had been hastily repositioned once the war ended – we learnt that upon annexing Poland in 1939, the Nazis had dug up Jewish stones and used them to pave roads. We then entered Auschwitz I, the former Polish barracks repurposed as a concentration camp in 1940. Beyond the chilling ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (‘Work makes you free’) entrance, we found piles of hair, glasses and clothes, as well as a gas chamber that we entered.
In the afternoon we travelled the short distance to Birkenau, the purpose-built camp that lies behind the infamous railway track and archway. It’s here that the vast majority of victims died. At Birkenau our guide explained how prisoners from all parts of Nazi-occupied Europe would arrive by train, believing they were in transit to a new life in ‘the east’. Many did not survive the journey due to the inhumane conditions on board. We saw the four brick facilities where prisoners were gassed with the lethal Zyklon-B pesticide on an industrial scale.
I was struck by the systematic nature of the camp and the tragic events that took place there. The site was operated so methodically to achieve maximum efficiency in answering ‘the Jewish question’. Visitors learn how Nazi officers carefully planned how best to expand the camp and increase the capacity of the gas chambers. By the spring of 1944, as many as 6,000 prisoners were being killed each day at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In order to prevent other inmates from hearing the screams inside the chambers, officers would park trucks outside and rev the engines.
Our day at Auschwitz ended with a memorable ceremony held next to the destroyed Crematoria II. The ceremony was performed by Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue London and included readings and a moment of reflection before we placed memorial candles at the end of the railway track. The pupils participating in the Lessons from Auschwitz project were visibly moved and left with some valuable memories to share with classmates back home in Scotland. The camp is as relevant today as it was when it was liberated seventy years ago. Only last month Prime Minister David Cameron visited and today some of the camp’s few survivors will return to reflect on their experiences.
Today Auschwitz serves as a crucial reminder of the evil humans are capable of inflicting on each other. It shows us the horrors that are possible when prejudices are left unchecked and extremist political groups are able to capture the hearts and minds of populations in difficult times.
The East End Social hit Glasgow this April for the first time and is already providing the east of the city with an exciting and eclectic string of musical events and community workshops in musical disciplines such as beatboxing and percussion. Previously based in Bridgeton, the festival’s relocation this year was based on the opportunity for widespread recognition that the Commonwealth Games provided. With the world’s eyes on Glasgow, the opportunity for far-reaching impact was supplied by the boom in tourism from the end of June. As well as this, the project’s presence in Glasgow simultaneously to the Commonwealth Games contributed variety and contrast in terms of events available to the public.
Run by Chemikal Underground, an independent label based in the east end of Glasgow, the project aims to improve the community’s access to music and to stimulate the arts in the area of the city that the label calls home. Chemikal Underground, the label behind acts such as Mogwai, RM Hubbert, and The Phantom Band, also aim to bring music to the
part of the city that has struggled in past years to keep up with the cultural events hosted throughout the centre, west end, and south side. The combination of community projects, intimate concerts, and large-scale events promise a thrilling month for the city as the Social reaches it’s end in August.
The project’s crowning glory is The Last Big Weekend, a two-day long festival in Richmond Park on the 30th and 31st of August. The show is headlined by Glaswegian legends Mogwai, in the same year of the release of their eighth studio album, Rave Tapes and the reissue of their 1999 LP, Come On Die Young, and so the Last Weekend will top off a triumphant year for the band. Day tickets will set you back £38.50, and weekend tickets are £70; don’t let that stop you though, as the weekend promises a thrilling combination of genres courtesy of a stunning line-up. Homegrown talent prevails with Scottish acts such as Honeyblood, Hudson Mohawke, former Sub Club residents Optimo, and 2014 Scottish Album of the Year Award winners Young Fathers taking the stage alongside other acts from throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The wealth of talent that will be gracing the stage in Richmond Park will be the climactic culmination of months of musical events and workshops, and is surely a weekend not to miss.
The East End Social can be caught around various areas of the city, such as cinemas, libraries, and parks. It runs through to the end of August. Tickets for all events, including The Last Big Weekend, can be bought online at www.eastendsocial.com.
Greg Philo is the professor of Communications and Social Change and the research director of the Glasgow Media Group here at Glasgow University. His research has examined how issues such as the Israel and Palestine conflict, the Falklands war, industrial news, and mental illness are portrayed in the media and understood by the public. The media group’s most recent publication, Bad News For Refugees, explores how migrants have been stigmatised in political rhetoric and media coverage. In 2010, Philo outlined his proposal for a one-off tax on the richest 10% of the UK population, in an article for the Guardian, which can be read here.
Recently, the papers have been plastered with the News of the World phone hacking trial and talk of press regulation. We’ve seen the public accuse the BBC of bias for not reporting austerity demonstrations in London, for ‘promoting’ UKIP, while some have raised concern about how the Independence debate is being handled. Israel and Palestine are also once again in the media, and its coverage too has prompted protest. With all of this going on, I thought Greg Philo might be the person to speak to. I visited his office to ask him a few questions about these recent events.
To what extent was the lack of media coverage of the London austerity demonstrations the result of bias on the part of the press and the BBC?
I think bias is much too crude a way to look at it. You have a political structure in which the BBC are located, and they define their own democratic role within that structure, and what they mean by democracy is what essentially happens in parliament. If you have a situation in which the conservatives, liberal democrats and labour are all one way or another committed to neo-liberal politics, in BBC terms, it squeezes out any other debate. This then leaves the population, who don’t want many policies and don’t agree with much of what is being said and done, actually out of the equation. So the BBC needs to rethink what it is to be the people’s broadcaster.
The labour party for instance is connected directly to neoliberal politics and is very closely associated with the city of London, this goes back to the transformation of the Labour party to being a much more right wing organisation, which began under Kinnock. Before that there had been the big argument between Benn and Healey over the direction Labour should take.
I have a poster here in my office that says ‘STUC says stop the cuts’. That poster dates from 1977, two years before Thatcher came into power. The cuts that were being introduced then were by the Labour party under Healey.
So this issue of public spending and the refusal to tax the rich to reduce inequality, goes back a long way.
Then as the whole political structure moves to the right, the population becomes increasingly fed up because they are losing public services and are furious about things like privatisation. You have big support for nationalisation of railways and energy companies because they don’t want resources which they see as belonging to the people and the nation being traded on international markets. So you get a tremendous popular dissent in opinion polls, but a political structure that is not going to do anything about it, and the result is that large numbers of people don’t vote, leaving the BBC trapped in this version of democracy.
There were over 1,000 complaints made to the BBC, claiming there had been a bias, or an impartiality favouring UKIP in their coverage, how fair do you think that criticism is?
I don’t think bias does justice to it. The problem is that the BBC sees it all in terms of electorate politics. If UKIP does better, and solidifies a particular kind of right wing vote in the country, they see that as an electoral earthquake, but they’re missing out the fact that so many people are not taking part anymore because they feel disenfranchised and that to me seems to be the key issue. The actual number of people who voted for UKIP was 8% of the electorate.
It’s a misunderstanding of the political process, and where the population is in terms of democracy. The BBC needs to redefine their own role and include a range of opinion, and you can see that happening in some BBC programmes.
If you look at Question Time, that sometimes actually has a wider range of debate. The Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 is another example. Vine actually had me on his show to talk about the wealth tax, but it’s not just me, he has an enormous audience, pulling in masses of commentary that often has nothing to do with what politicians are talking about.
Are there any concrete practical measures people can take?
Absolutely, write to the BBC, write to Jeremy Vine, organise! I remember speaking to maybe a thousand people at the Great Mosque; I was on a platform with George Galloway. I asked the audience, how many of them were not happy with the coverage of Israel and Palestine, but none of them had ever complained about it. So you have literally millions of people in this country that think the coverage is so awful and distorted that they stop watching the BBC. But the BBC is a public body, it’s funded essentially by taxation, so it must be criticised and changed.
When there is criticism against the BBC, it sometimes changes. When we brought out our book, Bad News for Israel, the BBC commissioned the Thomas Report, and it actually concurred with much of what we had said in the book, but nothing was then done which changed the actual coverage. The coverage actually got worse over time. If you look at the coverage at the moment, I think it’s simply mirrors everything we said in our books, in terms of what’s wrong with it.
You mention Israel/Palestine, do you identify any differences in the nature or the causes of the way the conflict is reported in comparison to why domestic issues such as austerity are reported in the way they are?
Much of what we talk about comes down to money and power; it can go different ways at different times. When the west was worried about oil and the Middle East, in many ways there was a softening of the approach to the Arab or Islamic countries. Saudi Arabia for example had a very easy time in terms of politics and public affairs and I think that probably at one point made it a bit easier for the Palestinians.
After the 1972 war there was a tremendous amount of public relations and political activity from Israel, Finkelstein writes about this in The Holocaust Industry. There was a real sense that Israel had to win the public relations battle in the world, and they spent millions, and organised a significant amount of political lobbying in America that coincided with the growth of right wing politics in this country. By the time Tony Blair came into power he was almost a direct conduit from American and British support for Israel. If you look at the political structures in this country, you can see how both Conservative and Labour party MPs have strong links there, but you’re talking overall about commercial links, political links, and the structures of power that operate in the world as a whole.
In a sense there are links between that and neo-liberal politics but not automatic direct ones because neo-liberal politics is about making money and concentrating wealth, and that can embrace links with for example Saudi Arabia that’s also financing very fundamentalist versions of Islam which the big powers also don’t like, so there are many apparent contradictions.
If you look at somewhere like Syria it just exposes all those contradictions. One month they are talking about attacking the Syrian regime because of the issues about chemical weapons and then someone points out that that would actually put them on the same side as al-Qaeda, who are also fighting the Syrian government.
The only consistent feature in all of these wars is that they keep happening and that the arms industry, the contractors, the giant investors and producers of arms and the supply companies keep making trillions of dollars. I don’t think there is a morality behind it at all really except the consistent attempt to keep the whole machine going.
The Glasgow Media Group’s most recent publication, Bad News for Refugees, looks at how migrants are represented in the media. Going back to UKIP and in relation to their stance on immigration, what did you find about the reality of immigration and the immigration we might see on television or in newspapers?
The UKIP argument on migration is sometimes superficially quite left wing, that it is not enough to go for economic growth by bringing in skilled labour from other poorer countries, and actually if you look at UKIP, they can be remarkably sophisticated, certainly Farage is in the way he frames his arguments. For instance, he will attack a giant pizza company in London for exploiting workers from Eastern Europe for giving them poor wages and poor living conditions, and say this suits the big companies. But you can see that he is actually stealing the clothes of the socialists – he wouldn’t put it into Marxist terms, but actually a lot of what he is saying is what Marxists in the 70’s would have called the ‘reserve army of labour’.
It’s an argument you have to be very careful and thoughtful about. It’s very muddled up because as soon as anyone mentions limits of migration, everyone says its racist, and of course it is for some people. A lot of people when they say we have to stop the migrants, mean people with a different colour of skin that they don’t like, and such prejudice has to be opposed. But you have also to question the free movement of labour across borders following the free movement of capital and consider that it might both impoverish the countries the labour has come from and also necessarily displaces some labour in your own country, because you can have skilled workers taking unskilled worker’s positions. When Nelson Mandela came to Glasgow, one thing he said was ‘stop stealing our doctors’. But from the point of view of an employer,if you have motivated, highly skilled workers picking your strawberries it’s better than having people who aren’t.
The not-so-well-thought-out left argument has been jumping into what I think is actually a neo-liberal position, saying: bringing in migrants means you have lots of skilled workers, and this is good because the economy expands and then there’s jobs for everybody. But that isn’t necessarily true if you think about it. If the economy expands you might therefore need more labour, therefore you bring in more skilled labour from poorer countries .It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to create more jobs for your own difficult to place people.
Unemployment is officially two and a half million but really it’s something like five or six million in terms of people working reduced hours but classified as employed, or somehow off the books. So there is a massive number of people looking for jobs, and there needs to be a process to say: ok we need skilled workers and we certainly aren’t going to be racist in any way about limiting people moving around but at the same time you absolutely have to invest in the people who happen to be here, they could be from all over the place, but you have to invest in people who are already here, especially if they are unskilled, and it’s very expensive to do that. You need wealth taxes, and to reduce inequality; you have to intervene to work out what you’re going to do with this population that the neo-liberal market doesn’t require.
If you’re going to have a more progressive society you need to organise it in some way, and the nerve UKIP have touched is exactly that, they’re popular partly because of the racism, and that’s certainly the case, but it is also saying that capitalism has to be responsible for everyone in the workforce, Farage wouldn’t put it in those terms but that’s the nerve he’s touching.
There have been some who have accused the BBC of impartiality over its coverage of the Scottish Independence debate. What are your thoughts on the media coverage of Scottish Independence and the debate at large?
I haven’t studied it, you’d need to look at all the local news, and I hate the idea of looking at a couple of programmes and saying whether it’s been fair or not. What I will say is that it seems to me a little simple minded to say the BBC is anti-independence on the grounds that it’s taking orders from Westminster, because actually the BBC could also be under pressure from the Scottish Government, which is clearly a major force in Scotland. I don’t really want to intervene and argue about the content, because I haven’t looked at it.
What I will say is that the interesting thing in the debate is that everybody has a vested interest in not saying certain things. Because the media mostly relate to politicians and key voices they avoid all sorts of issues. Both the No and Yes side never touch on some crucial issues, because it’s in a sense too embarrassing and they both feel the need to come across as patriotic. For example, there was a survey done with international students, which found that about half of them wouldn’t study here if Scotland it became independent. They said it would become like Ireland, and in effect, fall off the map of the’top brands’ of higher education. In China for instance, many students are simply ticking a box for a UK or a US education. Ireland has half the universities Scotland has, and about 2,700 Chinese students, in Glasgow alone there are 2000. It would be an enormous hit on universities here, and if you include the loss of direct grant research funding , it would be an even bigger hit. It’s a difficult thing to say because in a way it’s seen as unpatriotic. The government will reply that Scotland is the country of Adam Smith and the steam engine, which is all-true, but as Brazil found out in the world cup you don’t get anything for what you did yesterday.
I think the No campaign feel also feel obliged to hold back in terms of discussing negative consequences. It looks so dangerous. The oil is now 0.4 of 1% of the UK GDP, and the pension costs are estimated to be 3 times the value of the oil. I have found people are quite surprised when they hear this.
Another issue no one wants to talk about is conflicts in Scottish society, such as Protestant-Catholic divisions. Twice now, different focus group organisers have talked about this saying how serious it is. But who’s investigating that? Who’s really investigating what it would do to Scottish society? People don’t want to talk about it; it’s not an image of Scotland that any of its leaders want to display.
Questions by Liam Doherty
The Orange Walks and the Independence Referendum
There are only three certainties in Scotland this year; Death, taxes and the omnipresence of the Independence Referendum. Campaigners from both sides of the vote have tirelessly canvassed, debated, trolled, protested, donated and recruited in what is arguably the largest and most exciting event in recent Scottish history. Unfortunately, the debate on Scotland’s future could become a political bed-sheet waved right at an angry orange bull.
The rub lies in existing issues. For although the Orange Order may seem little more than silly hats, penny whistles and a slightly longer journey to work, religious differences have given it a violent side leading to frequent clashes with the police. As much as the majority of arrests – for drinking in public and antisocial behaviour- can be filed as the inevitable by-product of a large gathering of people on a sunny day in Glasgow, it remains impossible to disguise the link between Orange Order disorder and Sectarianism. ‘ScGlasgow’s East End in summer can be stunning, but it’s no place to nurse a hangover. Each weekend the early afternoon is filled with the whistles, drums and Sunday best suits of the Orange Order. Divisive, fiercely Protestant and strongly unionist, the Order is most active during the ‘marching season’, a series of walks primarily in Northern Ireland and the West of Scotland culminating on the 12th of July, the anniversary of William of Orange’s victory over James II way back when.
This year, the marches in Glasgow are juxtaposed against two major socio-political events – the Independence Referendum and the Commonwealth Games, each with the potential to exacerbate longstanding issues surrounding the parade. And as calls to close down the parades continue, could 2014 be the Order’s last tango on Clydeside?
otland’s Shame’ is a longstanding issue in its largest city, stemming from historic discrimination against Catholic immigrants. Today it is reflected in trouble between fans of the Old Firm clubs -the traditionally Protestant Rangers and Catholic Celtic – and their political allegiances; Celtic fans anti-fascist and pro-Palestine in the current Israel conflict, Rangers the opposite. With Celtic’s stadium and supporters pubs situated in the East End, the walks are tense affairs at best; at worst, this tension quickly gets nasty.
But how does this tie in with independence? Well, essentially, an already politically charged radical organisation (to put it lightly) involving itself with a huge, impassioned movement spells nothing but trouble. The warning signs are present. As expected, The Order has registered as an official supporter of the No Campaign, actively displaying this in brazen WordArt during marches. Their involvement, it seems, couldn’t be further from ‘compassion, peace and stability’: The official Better Together campaign has already publicly distanced itself from the Orangemen; Sam McCrory, widely suspected of plotting to murder senior IRA members, has voiced fears that the Order could disrupt the No campaign by alienating Catholics and centre-left Scots. When a star of Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men tells you to calm down, it’s obvious there’s a problem.
There’s more than the No Campaign’s reputation at risk. With their reputation for disruptive sectarianism ,the Order already face strong opposition within Glasgow – with a petition calling for their ban as ‘discriminatory supremacist Orange hate marches’ gathering over 4,500 signatures – and the IndyRef could trigger genuine conflict. Indeed, it is not far-fetched to speculate that fears of reactionary violence played a large part in Better Together’s choice to ostracise the Order.
It has been argued that the order are actually playing the classic antihero in the independence tragic-comedy, enfranchising ‘tens of thousands in housing schemes across the country’ who would previously never bothered to vote. Surely there is a better way of doing this than through an organisation built on religious discrimination? It seems more likely that the Order’s involvement in the independence campaign will cause greater unrest at the marches.
The Orange Walks and the Commonwealth Games
As the locals debate and speculate ahead of September the 18th, Glasgow City Council has been gearing up for the Commonwealth Games. Fronted by the ‘People Make Glasgow’ campaign in a bid to present a progressive and united city, government funded graffiti, Salmond Cycles and repainted shop-fronts have all emerged as part of an increasingly dubious regeneration programme. With less than a month to go ‘til the competitions start, the council will be understandably keen to avoid any negative publicity; the marches will be a major cause for concern, and it is likely there will be a heavier police presence in an attempt to deter troublemakers.
This creates problems in itself. Over-policing at the Orange Walk could leave the city appearing divided, its elected officials paranoid. Under policing could give the red tops a field day. It’s some conundrum, and GCC and Police Scotland will have to be spot on with their crowd control when the 12th of July comes around -even more so than previous years. And if the marchers fail to live up to the grand words on their anti-independence flyers, decisive action may have to be taken against them.
Since their conception, the Orange Parades have been a permanent bone of contention in Glasgow. Sympathisers see them as a way of expressing freedom, religious and political pride; others see a volatile and incendiary danger. This year as violence at parades continue, political tensions exacerbated by the IndyRef grow – and with the walks carrying strong potential to disrupt the squeaky-clean Commonwealth image – the bell could finally toll.
When one runs as frequently as I do, it is easy for various jaunts to simply blend into one. By the weight of
their number and steady accumulation there is, for each run, a stealth to the quirks and features that obtain
and thus stands in defiance of individualisation. They are though, all different. Even if one deploys the same
route (or a ‘routine course’), one is unlikely to feel the same, or to run at an identical pace and time.
My run that day was notable in that I only managed to traverse the first couple of kilometres of a (planned)
longer run. This, and the fact that it was a full five hours following my departure before I returned home
distinguished this particular bout of exercise. I had, it emerged following an impromptu hospital visit, check-
up and diagnosis at the Western General Hospital, suffered a seizure at some point, presumably about ten
minutes after setting off.
There is a hallucinogenic quality to my recollections of the seizure itself. I can recall brief impressions and
sensations that flitted across my mind’s eye (or mind’s ear; or mind’s extremity) though they are mere
synaesthesic snapshots that defy any attempt at re-ordering, or chattelling them into some kind of storyline.
There are flashes of light; the brush of a branch (or bush) as my hand mis-gropes in attempting to break a
fall; voices of others elide with mumbled replies from me.
When attempting to imprint a timeline or narrative thread on otherwise abstract sensations the logical step is
– as with frayed wool or thread – to look for a start point. I can just about remember walking out the door at
the foot of my stairwell, I think. Am I recalling That Day’s exit, or merely another identikit run? I would like
to think that I can recall jogging downhill onto the walkway beside the river Kelvin. But these final, pre-
seizure and ‘conscious’ steps are sufficiently embedded to preclude divorcing any one instance from the
One is left instead with piecing together the story from the shards of memory that emerged from the
shattering of sanity, and attempting to weave backwards from the tendrils of impressions that occurred in the
ambulance and, later on, in the hospital.
x X x
The sharp and jagged pain to the rear of my tongue only really emerged as I half-sat, half-lay on a hospital
bed-cum-trolley in the corridor adjacent to the A&E department. Borderline supine, I was also still in the
process of resuming acquaintance with most of my autonomic responses. [I should add that at roughly the
same time that this pain began to command attention, I alighted on the bed-heads of the hospital trolleys
likeness to a tombstone. Coincidence?]
I had been relatively lucid – or recently returned to lucidity – for about an hour by this stage, and had talked
at length to the paramedics who retrieved and admitted me, though had yet to alight upon this source of pain.
It was a strange and delicate sensation as flaps of skin flit over the surface of my teeth, as if an errant piece
of food has become stuck there. Despite the general viscosity of the skin on our tongues, they are nonetheless
tautly affixed to the organ itself – as with any other part of our upper dermis.
Furthermore, had the doctor examining me not queried as to whether I had bitten my tongue, there is every
chance that I would not have volunteered it. As it was, this was apparently the clincher (no pun intended…)
so far as my diagnosis was concerned. The pain, over a week later, was still occasionally sharp and severe
depending on the temperature of the food imbibed.
x X x
‘Do you know why you’re here?’ a male voice demands of me, fairly insistently. He repeats the question,
primed, no doubt, by my shocked and vacant demeanour for little in the way of insight. This interrogatum
gives way to a minor personal reverie as I take in the apparatus that surrounds me in the back of the
ambulance. It is said of presidential (and prime-ministerial) bunkers that such is the infrastructural network
contained within that a war can be waged and managed from one. Ambulances may be constrained by their
dimensions, but the sheer variety of ailments and conditions that they are equipped to deal with – to staunch,
to splint, to revive – is never far from one’s attention, no matter one’s confusion.
‘Do. You. Know. Why. You’re. Here?’ A female voice this time, though less questioning than designed to
command my errant focus – the explanation hot on its heels: ‘You were found running around in circles; you
didn’t know where you were/what you were doing.’
Still I glance between the faces of the (three, in total) paramedics, my gaze alighting on some tube or
tourniquet. I may at this point have mumblingly interjected that I did not indeed know, or that I didn’t
understand. Didn’t understand any of it. One faceless soul proffered the factoid that many runners wear
bands or some form of neck-wear that bears details of prevailing health ‘issues’, or emergency contact
details. This catalysed my own sense of alarm, and momentarily sharpened my focus.
‘This has never happened before,’ I mumbled, or something to this effect. I padded around my midriff for
possessions that I must presumably have left the flat with. My only pocket bulges with keys and my running
hat, though my mobile phone is missing. The male paramedic – the other two being female – peels off; to
look for the phone? I think I supplied him with a number, though I’m simultaneously struggling to recall my
address. I tell them my name, and there is a palpable release of tension as I am addressed as ‘Scott’ where
previously I was but a nameless, and wholly unwilling convict of circumstance.
Am I a student? Do I have a job? What do I do for a living? Am I supposed to be at work just now? The
sheer variety of probable, and likely, responses to these queries returns me to mass-confusion. How many of
these questions were put to me by the paramedics, and which merely flitted across my mind I cannot at this
stage recall with any confidence. Before long, it was deemed appropriate to take me to A&E, and I readily
On the journey over lunacy jockeys with lucidity for primacy, and there are snatched conversations with the
two female paramedics about running in general, and races ran and entered, before some form of reflection
eventually seeped out of the patient. The walk from the driveway entrance to A&E is deemed an insufficient
and inappropriate addendum to the episode, thus far, and I was squired by a hospital bed upon a trolley to the
bowels of the Accident and Emergency department of the Western General hospital.
x X x
The paramedic who had wheeled me in stated that the couple who had found me claimed I was speaking
‘gibberish – as if a foreign language.’ I assured them that I speak no other language fluently, though did
briefly wonder whether my episode had afforded me a savant-like, near-perfect command of a foreign
The clinical aroma that shrouds one’s apperception of the frailty on show lingers in the memory. One
wonders if actual doctors and nurses can ever completely free themselves from this psychological anchor.
There is an aphorism that states that much of what we recall is based in – and can thus be triggered by –
smell, and this is especially pertinent in a hospital setting. Much of my visit was, initially, expended in the
corridor, and thereafter waiting in an examination room as various blood samples and heart-readings were
taken and filtered through the medium of my responses and recollections.
Once ensconced in a room of my own I was permitted a moment of privacy to relieve myself. Having taken
on a fair bit of water during the course of the day, my bladder was now full; mercifully so, I ought to add: it
is not uncommon for minor bouts of incontinence to afflict the seizure patient. This aspect of my hydration
levels was at some odds with my other symptoms, which spoke to prevailing states of dehydration. My lips
felt dry, and the skin on my face rather pinched. I could almost feel the friction of my eyelids against the
surface of my eyes. My brain felt as if it had shrunk to a quarter of its size, and was now bashing around my
parched skull. The resultant headache is the one ailment that was medicated during the course of my visit, as
the young doctor attending me dispenses a pair of aspirin.
I’m left alone for a little while whilst a vial of my blood is ferried away for analysis. In the room next to me
a patient awaiting further consultation – and perhaps diagnosis – manages to sound both resigned and
concerned at the same time as he claims to be cognisant of a figure looming over him. I glanced across the
hallway where one of the tombstone silhouettes hooks my gaze once more. I occupied myself by pacing
around my temporary commode in my hospital gown – a loose-fitting, backless number.
Shortly before being discharged, an elderly female patient and I were afforded the luxury of a visit to the tv
area where Question Time is showing. My concentration had not yet recovered to normal levels, though I
would, without hesitation, question the holistic appeal of the political squabbling on show. I was eventually
released, and trudged resignedly uphill to my flat, a short walk from A&E’s back door, making it home
shortly before midnight. Weariness and an adrenal exhilaration sparked by my ordeal keep me awake for a
while, before putting the day to bed.
I recorded much of the preceding account in the days immediately following the event, whilst various
impressions were fresh in the memory. A couple of weeks later I was referred to the seizure clinic of the
Western General Hospital where a specialist groped for a fuller diagnosis. This isn’t intended as criticism of
any of the care or insight that I received; but the primary diagnostic feature of seizures (particularly first-
time or isolated incidents) is their unpredictability and – therefore – an inability to attribute them to any
particular cause or menu of lifestyle factors.
As such, the offerings of the consultant supplied little in the way of succour, though retained the capacity to
focus the mind, somewhat. I currently occupy a hinterland between the experience itself and a fuller
diagnosis that could in turn presage a prolonged period of medication. I was packed off with a bulk of
literature on epilepsy, and how we might come to regard it as less of an affliction than a mere challenge.
Once again, much of the insight contained within is slightly eye-watering. I cannot, for the time being, drive.
Marathons of partying and nightclubbing are verboten; alongside retiring the dancing shoes, climbing
ladders without supervision is now also a feature of my past.
The ‘missing’ phone was at home all along (I never run with it). I can only offer grateful and belated thanks
to the paramedic who both attended to me and partook in this fruitless treasure-hunt.
Independence. Efficacy. Fallibility. Frailty. These are some of the synonyms that I had jotted down in the
margins at various points over the course of crafting this piece. I don’t feel different, though have never felt
more alien in those moments immediately following the seizure. I am relatively free of concern as to my long-
term, life prospects, though too often we are labile as to the short-term implications of our lives. The fact that
another seizure might strike me, without warning, at some point in the future ought to be alarming, though
really I’m ill-disposed to live life on such tenterhooks.
A little over a week ago a film titled, Children of War, was released in India. The film is based on the 1971 attack on East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by the Pakistani army. The Indian press described the film as a ‘reminder of the brutality of the Pakistani Army’, who, in an attempt to supress Bengali self-determination, committed some of the most appalling atrocities since the Second World War.
The conflict broke after the Pakistani military allowed for the country’s first open election in ten years, and after a large majority win for Bengal’s Awami League. The military terminated the first meeting of the National Assembly prompting mass peaceful protest, which in turn was met by the brutality highlighted by ‘Children of War’.
‘GENOCIDE’ appropriately titled the landmark article in The Sunday Times by Pakistani reporter, Anthony Mascarenhas. Indeed Mascarenhas shone a light on the Pakistani army who were reported as having deployed rape, dismemberment and the deliberate murdering of children as tactics of suppression. These reports are supported by comments made by the then U.S. Consul General, Archer Blood, who was stationed in Dacca and in a famous act of insubordination, sent a telegram denouncing his own government’s failure to ‘denounce the suppression of democracy…. to denounce atrocities.’ What became known as, the Blood Telegram, goes on to read, ‘Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its [Bengali] citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak government and to lessen likely and deservedly negative international public relations impact against them’.
Henry Kissinger demanded that Blood be thrown out of Washington. And at the height of the atrocity-ridden suppression of the Bengali, Kissinger thanked the architect of the genocide, General Yahya Khan, for his ‘delicacy and tact’. This, as Christopher Hitchens meticulously details in his excellent, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, was one of several ploys to either enhance relations with China, send a warning to India, or simply to see the self destruction of an emerging state that may have somehow gotten in the way – in short, it was mere business.
It is unclear how many were killed; Bangladesh authorities maintain it was around 3 million while other more conservative estimates put the death toll at 300,000 to 500,000. Whatever figure one wished to use, genocide remains the case. If anything, the numbers do little to reflect the nuances of horror Khan engineered; the strategic systematic raping and murdering of Bengali endures regardless – as does Kissinger’s support.
Just as Children of War gives opportunity to remember 1971, Henry Kissinger’s recent celebration of his 91st birthday provides ample opportunity to remind ourselves of the evildoings of this American diplomat throughout his career as U.S Secretary of State and National Security Council Advisor. Indeed the birthday boy is name to an eerily impressive list of atrocities and crimes against humanity; the secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia, supporting and approving the East Timor genocide, backing the coup of the democratically elected Chilean government, the planned kidnapping and murder of a Washington journalist, supporting the massacre in Tiananmen Square, lying about Vietnam and prolonging the war by four years, backing the Cyprus coup in 1974, advising Saddam Husain to massacre Kurds and promising reward on his doing so. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it paints a deserving portrait of the man who will no doubt be celebrated today.
Detailing all these atrocities lies outside the scope of this article, for all intents and purposes a focus on Chile may give as good a sample as any of Kissinger’s criminal thuggery. Indeed, Seymore Hersh, author of, The Price of Power, sees Chile as Kissinger’s worst act, as it had absolutely nothing to do with national security (that’s not to say the rest were – East Timor is good example of the genocide of a harmless and defenceless people).
The ‘Chilean situation’ as it is described in declassified CIA documents, begins when Salvador Allende emerged as a popular presidential candidate in the 1970 Chilean elections. American corporations operating in Chile became anxious over Allende’s promises to nationalise various industries. IT & T, the American corporation that owned the Chilean copper industry, was one such corporation whose president, Harold Geneen, voiced ‘grave concern’ over the prospect of Allende nationalising Chilean copper. Geneen wasn’t the only deep-wallet to call on Nixon and Kissinger to do something. An old chum of Nixon and President of Pepsi Cola, Donald Kendall, expressed similar concern, as did David Rockerfeller of Chase Manhattan. For Nixon to solve the Chilean situation would secure him vast financial corporate support for a subsequent election. All of a sudden Chile and Allende became a U.S concern.
Kissinger concurred with Nixon on June 27th 1970, stating, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people”. Here once again, Kissinger’s contempt for democracy speaks for itself. Allende however, won a plurality with 36.2 percent of the vote. For Nixon, the results of the election were ‘not acceptable to the United States’.
It was decided a military coup would be best. The CIA began recruiting members of the Chilean army. An obstacle presented itself however. General Rene Schneider, chief of the Chilean General Staff, got wind of plans of a coup, and announced his loyalty to the constitution. Hitchens, again in The Trial of Henry Kissinger, notes that in a meeting on the 18th September 1970, Kissinger decided Schneider had to go.
Kissinger concocted and operated a two-track policy, on one hand there would be the diplomacy, and simultaneously on the other, secret plans involving kidnap and murder. Despite Helms and others’ warnings that finding Chilean officers willing to kidnap and assassinate Schneider would be too difficult, Kissinger was adamant they press on – and it paid. General Viaux, an extremist right-wing officer, accepted the job. The exchange between Kissinger and these hit men is detailed by Hitchens in his book. Kissinger supplied payment, machine guns, tear gas grenades, orders and pressure to succeed. After two failed attempts, Schneider’s car was ambushed; he drew his gun but was shot several times at point blank range.
This was a planned kidnapping of an official of a democratic nation with which the U.S was by no means at war with. The kidnappers were armed with American weaponry and paid large sums of money. This was organised by Kissinger, an unelected U.S official who supressed this entire fiasco from the eyes of Congress. The analogising of Kissinger and Nixon as Mafiosi stands vindicated with this whack, and is in fact complimented by declassified tapes were Kissinger and Nixon are heard discussing the post-Schneider overthrow of Allende.
The end of the story is better known. In September 11th 1973, what South Americans term the ‘first 9/11’, Kissinger and Nixon succeeded in overthrowing Allende. Their almost hand-selected brute of choice, Pinochet, led the military coup, bombing the Capital’s, Le Moneda, resulting in Allende’s death. Pinochet was installed with a secret thank you from Kissinger, followed by a murderous and torturous seventeen year dictatorship on part of Augusto. A special team of economists, The Chicago Boys, were also drafted in who broke the back of the Chilean economy. Mission accomplished.
Two months later Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for prolonging the war in Vietnam at the expense of innumerable lives and breaking U.S and international law by secretly bombing Cambodia and Laos. The satirist and mathematician, Tom Lehrer, remarked that this was when ‘satire died’.
If only satire was the sole casualty of Kissinger’s personal success.
Words by Liam Doherty
In an ideal world, the idea of university “Spotted” pages would be quite mundane, possibly even benign. A unique way to interact with your fellow students, I imagine it would foster a sense of community hitherto unknown on Facebook, full of bright, well-adjusted individuals poking light fun at other equally bright, well-adjusted individuals without fear of reprimand or causing offence. After all, the posts on these pages would all be in the name of good fun, and I doubt anybody would make complaints against something so obviously well-intentioned and inoffensive. No harm, no foul, right?
Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world – this fact made clear by the huge debate currently raging over the state of the “Spotted: Glasgow Uni Library” Facebook page. So what exactly is the problem?
After a brief hiatus around Christmas time last year, the infamous “Spotted” page recently resumed regular posting for the exam season. The admin staff had swelled to seven members, and the page’s popularity was higher than ever – roughly 10,500 likes, which, as frequently pointed out by the page admins themselves, is a significant proportion of Glasgow University’s 25,000 students. However, things quickly turned sour. Among the admittedly sketchy regular chat-up lines and solicitous remarks from wannabe Lotharios, some truly seedy and explicit content began to emerge. After outcry from students and the Isabella Elder Feminist Society, these posts were hastily removed and the admin staff cut down to the original two. However, the current admins of the page will admit to no sexism or foul conduct beyond possible revelation of identity, as they have said in a letter to the university, which can be found on the Isabella Elder Feminist Society Facebook page. Many contributors and followers of “Spotted”, as well as the admins themselves, seem to think that the charges raised against them are nothing more than the petty gripes of “moany feminists”, seeking to ruin their fun. When I spoke to one of the admins of the page, he told me they “are infamously an oversensitive school of thought who jump at the chance of possible offence to their gender”, and that the page had “no other intention than light hearted humour”.
And, well, I do believe that they had no consciously malicious intent when they started the page. By their own admission, they just wanted to “get in on the act” and jump on the bandwagon of similar pages hosted by students of other universities. However, their opinion of feminism reeks strongly of reactionary defensiveness, and, honestly, a complete ignorance of the way that oppression actually operates in our society.
At the end of this conversation I was asked not to “label [Spotted: Glasgow Uni Library] as sexist”, as though the term “sexist” were nothing more than an uncomfortable, embarrassing handle unfairly given to someone completely innocent, and undeserving of all suspicion. It’s a word nobody wants to hear, and which nobody wants to think about. But the truth is that we have to think about it. The truth is that people are sexist, that some actions are sexist. The truth is that each and every one of us participate in a sexist culture, and perform sexist actions, whether consciously or unconsciously, on purpose or not.
And let me be clear on one other thing: sexism is not a two-way street. It is true that prejudice against all genders exist, it is true that someone might hold a grudge against you, or demean you, just because you identify as a man. However this is not endemic to our culture. Misandry does not exist in the same way that misogyny does. A common way of defining oppression is “prejudice plus power”. Put simply, what this means in the context of our very own Spotted page is this: when an anonymous post such as “To the Hugh Jackman lookalike who always sits by the level 4 keyboards: get your claws out and rip my clothes off”, obviously aimed at a man, is posted, no one feels threatened. There’s very little precedence (note: not none) for men receiving such comments on a regular basis, or being made to feel ashamed for sexual comments aimed at them. The person this was aimed can probably take this as the humorous post it was intended to be, and leave it there. They may even feel flattered. The problem is that men seem to think women should take these comments in the same way, without realizing that women spend every day of their lives under a barrage of inappropriate comments, are groped, dismissed, harassed, catcalled, belittled – all because of their gender. One in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. And we are all aware of this. The risks for men are much lower. Because of this, guys, I’m sorry, but no one is going to take your post about masturbating over a girl in the university library toilets – without her consent – as a compliment. It’s just another unwanted reminder that women are always being watched and assessed for their sexual availability, that they are not even safe in a learning environment – that they can never fully relax in a public place. If you think women should just “get over it” – congratulations, you have about the same empathetic capability as a small reptile.
If you think that I am exaggerating, I’ll direct your attention to this post, made in November of last year:
“To All of the Girls: Usually at this time of year you stop making an effort to look nice due to the increasing pressure of imminent exams and the constant onslaught of freshers’ cocks you have taken over the course of the first semester. But this year I am very glad to say that the overall standard has been consistent and incredibly high. I just wanted to mention my appreciation (and I’m sure I’m not alone here) of the eye candy that has helped me through the hard weeks of study so far this year and for the rest of the hard weeks to come!”
Please don’t try to dismiss this post as the exception to the rule. If it was the exception, it would be something to be laughed at, and dismissed. Instead, it is comments like these which are at the crux of this debate.
No matter how much the admins have tried to water down the content to avoid scandal and keep the page running, they cannot control the slew of misogynistic comments posted by their followers, who evidently don’t seem to care about their anonymity as much as the admins of the page think they should. Throughout the page, and especially on the “Spotted:Glasgow uni sexism” page set up to combat it, those who oppose distressing content are variously referred to as “moany feminists”, told to “ grow the fuck up and take the pole out your arse”, and exposed to callous “jokes” like “sorry I couldn’t reply sooner, had to shout at my mum to do the dishes then go beat my wife.” It would take some hefty denial and exhausting mental gymnastics to convince yourself that those concerned for the safety of their fellow students deserve such harassment, especially since the requests of the Isabella Elder Feminist Society have always been calm, reasoned, and more than willing to negotiate. In an email, they wrote “We are not necessarily against Spotted pages in general but feel that the Spotted Library page has repeatedly and consistently posted material that is of a particularly threatening and frightening nature…which isn’t acceptable.” That seems fair enough to me, unless, of course, you disagree that the nature of the posts are threatening or frightening at all. But hang on, didn’t I just showcase the amount of vitriol levelled at women (which “feminist” is clearly synonymous with) on a daily basis? “We don’t believe that people who are continually complicit in making female students feel unwelcome at this university are in any position to critique feminism”, wrote the IEFS secretary. “They only emphasize its need to exist.”
As I’ve said earlier in this piece, it’s not necessarily the concept of a “Spotted” page which is concerning. It’s the way the page has been handled, and the way it’s been used by its contributors, both anonymous and not, which point to a larger problem in student culture country-wide. The fact is that there are young men and women who are grossly misinformed of what constitutes sexism and harassment, who truly believe that they’re not hurting anyone, and that feminists are just oversensitive harpies spoiling the fun for everybody else. The fact is that there are people at this university who are willfully ignorant of the hurt they cause, refuse to educate themselves on even the most basic tenets of human decency, and would rather humiliate and silence anyone who dares call them out on it than even consider the fact that they may be in the wrong. Their education may have failed them as children, but they are now (supposedly) adults who can and should be critical of their own words and actions, and willing to learn rather than stick to childish instincts. This is a university after all, not a playground.
Words – Ruthie Kennedy
In the early hours of last Tuesday, following the end of classes celebration known as Bermuda Shorts Day, Matt De Grood, a University of Calgary graduate recently accepted into the school’s law program, arrived at a party and fatally stabbed five students. He was sober, having come straight from his job at a nearby grocery store. He was an invited guest. And though he’d brought his own weapon, described as “an instrument” by police, De Grood carried out the attacks with a knife he found in the house’s kitchen. Three died immediately. The other boy and the only girl died in hospital a few hours later. De Grood, having fled the scene, was chased down and apprehended within the hour by a police dog.
As Calgary awoke, hungover, face painted and oblivious, the news filtered across Facebook feeds and Twitter, hitting with a heavy stomached sickening. Calgary is a city which, for its million citizens, never shed that uniquely North American small town feeling, and it had just been dealt “the worst mass murder” in its hundred and fifty year history. And the perpetrator was a sober law student.
Calgary is The Town that Oil Built, and for the petroleum-illiterate, the province of Alberta (10 provinces, 2 territories) contains 96% of Canada’s oil and gas. Most of it is eight hours North, in the slushy lucre of Fort “Mac” McMurray, oilsands where riggers and toolpushers earn an easy six figures hauling the black stuff out of the ground. But operations, spending and decompression seem to trickle down to Calgary, where all persons oil spend their 3 days off.
For those who don’t ski or snowboard, the city of Calgary hasn’t much to offer, and unless looking for oil, one would be forgiven for skipping from Vancouver to Winnipeg. It’s fair to say that most people here have a purpose, and it’s fair to say that mine was meant to lead me to Toronto. I came to Calgary as part of an exchange program, relishing the chance to spend the year, without VISA or employment worries, in a big North American town. I prayed for Toronto, and landed in Cowtown, where I’ve been living since August, the 3rd of my 4 years reading English Literature at the University of Glasgow.
Between the resource extraction and the minus thirty winters, Calgary is a town characterized by a physicality which this Londoner had never encountered. Even by Canadian standards, Calgary is rugged, and it’s fair to say it isn’t at home to the conceptual, the political, or the artistic. The tiny English department I attached myself to bobs happily in a sea of engineering, and our inaugural film festival was woefully under-attended. Perhaps the punters were at a Flames hockey match, or cheering on the Calgary Fillies in Canada’s Lingerie Football League.
Likely the case with all local murders, quickly our horror turned to prurience. A morbid speculation emerged, surrounding first the identities of the victims and their killer, none of which had been released. Drip fed titbits by the starved media, the details that surfaced prompted more questions, rather than offering resolution. Was it true the suspect’s father was a cop? What could possibly prompt a boy of twenty two to commit so visceral a murder as stabbing, and not once, but five times? Friends, no less, who’d invited him to their house and wanted to celebrate with him? And most pressing, how had he managed to stab, one by one, five people without being apprehended, before making off into the night, bloody and on foot, headed God knows where?
I wasn’t alone in my curiosity. I watched as “Calgary Stabbings” overtook “Calgary Stampede” on search engines, and Mayor Nenshi assured us that our prurience was “only natural…only human”, as he appeared at a campus vigil. Recognizable from flood-era photos, grinning in wellies and poncho, Naheed Nenshi was summoned from City Hall to pick up the pieces. He barreled into the room with his usual charisma, but I saw him falter, and it took an aide to indicate, discreetly, the grieving mother of one of the boys, before he could scoop her in a bear hug. She disappeared beneath pinstripes and a bald patch, and I began to weep. So did the man next to me, Where the Wild Things Are tattoo sleeves heaving.
Mayor Nenshi followed the University President and two chaplains onto the podium, a burning candle projected on the screen behind him. He didn’t speak for long, from a spot generally reserved for oil executives and function compares, assuring us that we would get past this tragedy. A handful of cameras flashed, and the air was heavy with the word “community”. The dog that savaged De Grood has been wheeled out for the day, and lay curled and bored at its handler’s boots. I hope this wasn’t Nenshi’s idea.
Like Alpha Piper, or the July 7 bombings, nobody is distant from the events. This is mathematical. Take five undergrads from a pool of twenty five thousand, and you’ll never be more than a few people away. An older friend played a set with Zachariah and the Prophets, the band that Zachariah Rathwell and Josh Hunter played in, just weeks ago. A girl whose project I was assigned to in my first semester graduated high school with one of the boys. But there is another side. And this was something Nenshi, for political reasons, perhaps, or his suit still creased from that brave woman’s embrace, hadn’t felt able to voice.
For every five who knew one of the victims, there is one who knew their killer. One who, if not friends as such, has an identity to assign him. A memory, an anecdote, an image beyond the same three or four Facebook photos, plucked and dragged onto the news websites that refresh themselves on the hour. It was Raphael Jacob, the President of the Students Union who brought this solace, and addressed the elephant in the room. You have no reason to be ashamed, or to feel guilty, Raphael assured any of De Grood’s friends amongst the grieving. And it needed to be said.
Comatose students and citizens drifted out, and I saw the dog had fallen asleep. Some stooped to sign the flag. Canadian, mind. This is a nation unused to this sort of violence. Canada’s history is as bloody as any ex-colony’s, but there have been no Dunblanes, no Columbines. Gun crime isn’t really something that happens here, nor terrorism outside of Quebec.
I suppose the vigil brings a closure of sorts. The names, the timeline, the detail of the two knives, all slot into place, and we have a story. But there is no meaning. These events haven’t been tied together by explanation, or understanding. We know the order, but not the reasoning. We’ve learnt how De Grood killed those poor students after spending the day celebrating the end of the school year, but will we ever know why? No answer emerges from a dredging of his Facebook profile for photos and ideology, though speculation clings to a lyric he posted a few days before the act.
Dread and the fugitive mind- the world needs a hero.
A gobbet from the world needs a hero by American thrash metal band Megadeth.
There are no real answers though, and no solace to the 10 parents, or De Groode’s own family. His father, a 33 year veteran of the Calgary Police force, expressed horror stricken condolences to the families from behind short lived anonymity. But Calgary isn’t a big enough town for him to be anything other than the father of “The Bermuda Shorts Day Killer”.
Individually, those touched by Tuesday’s massacre will never recover. But the blow which seemed at first to strike the town itself, and the university which lost six students to an unexplained shambles? When an institution feels a tragedy as violently as Calgary University took the Bermuda Shorts Day Massacre, how does it ever move past it? How does a body so large progress through the grieving process?
“We’re going to get through this” says Nenshi, “It’s what we do”.
An Abridged ‘Open Letter to America’ written in 1999 by an anonymous Zambian Journalist: Cited in Global Shadows, Africa in the Neoliberal World Order.
I know you’ve heard it many times by now: your policy in dealing with international crises is very selective. Europe is more important than Africa, Bosnia is more important that Rwanda, Kosovo than Sierra Leone. Why you have not been told yet is what we, the Africans living in Africa, think about not only your actions, but your motives and the underlying principles of your heart.
Your selectivity reveals four realities about the Western world to us: global racism exists and it determines international policy, capitalism is above compassion, the African debt is a deliberate strategy, and finally, democracy is not practiced by its preachers.
Racism, the greatest killer of the human race since time immemorable, is still the strongest force…
The irony of the Kosovo crisis is that it was caused by racism (at the ethnic level) and it was saved by racism (At the international level). NATO has shown that it has a colour, it is not as colourless as it presents itself to the world. It has a face and its face is pigmented: it is white. It has shown that the fact that whites rule America and other NATO countries is a significant fact and it does determine what happens to non-white “nations” in times of crisis…
America and her partners practice a racism/tribalism that is worse that that of Serbians against ethnic Albanians, or Tutsis against Hutus. She does not use guns and machetes, she uses the greatest weapon of mass destruction ever invented: the international credit (Debt) system. She wields this weapon against all the people that it hates. And the ones at the top of the list, apparently, are Africans.
America, World Bank, NATO, or whatever name you choose to disguise yourself in, it is clear that you do not care about Africa. If you admit this it will be easier for us. At least Milosevic has admitted his hatred for “the lower class” and Hitler never pretended about his anti-Semitic feelings. These evil men will at least be respected for their honesty. It is better to be killed by a man who calls himself your enemy than by one who pretends to be your friend…
The graves caused by the gruesome effects of the debt held against Africa are all around us: people die every day of easily curable diseases simply because there is no money in African nations. It has to go to servicing the debt we owe our masters…
Debt reduction is not enough for Africa. Neither is debt cancellation enough. We must fight for compensation. They are the ones who owe us money…
The amount of money they owe us has to be calculated… They owe us for taking some of the strongest men among us to go and work in their plantations. How much has that affected our productive output up to this day?
They owe us for the unfair dealings they did with our unsuspecting chiefs (a gun for miles of land). They owe us for taking the rich minerals out of our land with no permission and with no tariffs. They owe us for brainwashing us to their religions that taught us that poverty was a way of pleasing God and that there is another world after death where things would be better for us, thus taking from us our will to fight for the things they were stealing from us…
So, should they reduce our debt? Should the cancel our debt? No. There is nothing to reduce or cancel here. We owe them nothing; they owe us big time. They are the ones who should be begging for debt reduction from us. They owe each African nation hundreds of billions of dollars… I propose to African professors that they should sit down and calculate the exact figure…
Finally, the present crisis has revealed that there is no democracy in the developed world, or it means something other than what they tell us. Democracy is when the people rule. When the voices of the majority rule. Well, the earth consists of more people in Third World countries than in developed ones, and they have unanimously decided that the debt against them should be cancelled…. Is democracy just an American idea, to be practiced only within the confines of their borders? And even then, their own people believe that they should cancel our debt and that they should intervene fairly in global issues everywhere. They don’t listen to them either. Is that democracy?
But let me not allow these closing sentiments to cloud the real call of my article: we want our money back. We need compensation for what has been stolen from us. If we do not fight for it we will be betraying the people that have died because of it. We will be betraying the African slaves, the freedom fighters, the men women, and children that have died from disease and the millions who will die today. It’s a debt we cannot forgive.
Written in 1999, during the Kosovo intervention, on which NATO became championed for its impressive and effective swift response to genocide, this letter was especially poignant. It illustrates the failings of the International institutions to respond in Rwanda, during the ethnic genocide and civil war between the Hutus and Tutsis. It is important to contextualize the letter in order to consider the angered and powerful sentiments of the discourse. One could be cynical, and argue that in 2014, the rise of grassroots NGOs and an increasingly localised approach to tackling ‘global’ issues undermine the relevancy of the letter. That in this readjusting global order, and the decline of US unipolar dominance, the validity of the finger pointing can be pointed towards ‘equally exploitative’ neo-imperialist states such as China and Canada, tarred with the same brush, in its current ‘scramble’ for African minerals. One could definitely argue that the former ‘West’ is beginning to see the error of its ways and that the smell of international change is in the air, most notably due to the ever-apparent consequences of climate change and global warming.
Nonetheless, I think the direct message of this letter is resolute and critically important for a number of reasons. I think it stands to illustrate the perpetuation and continuing existence of hegemony and static binaries by which we perceive global order, and our insufficiency to see beyond this stagnant, unsustainable conception. This letter highlights how both the West and in the ‘victim’ states themselves perpetuate such neo-liberal sentiments of a divided world.
Firstly, one must note how the letter is self-consciously addressed to “the West.” It therefore insists on the symbiotic relationship and continuing connection between the “ Global North” and the “ Global South”. What I find perhaps slightly disheartening is the way by which it seeks to fall short of priding Africa for its difference and individuality from the West, satirising the notion of the ‘White hero’ misconception. Instead, the letter defines and portrays Africa as parasitic and dependent on the ‘West’ rather than seeking to challenge the very heart of the insidious nature of neoliberal ideology. The author evidently uses the rhetoric and symbolism of the ‘West’ to define Africa. It is as if it is inconceivable that it can take its own initiative to manipulate its relative disadvantage to unstable and question the bedrock ideology of neo-liberalism, which firmly entrenches the current existing international power relations.
What is important however, is the way by which the letter draws attention to the responsibility the West has to recognise its crippling impact its hegemonic international dominance has had on the South. Forcing us to acknowledge this relationship rather than abandoning it. The letter stands symbolically to suggest that with the rise of communication and increasing global discourse, silenced voices can be heard. The fact that you now are probably reading this in the rooks and crannies of some lovely Glaswegian café illustrates the importance that in this world of growing and accessible communication, such impressive, silenced opinions are now being heard. When I read this letter for the first time, I was struck by its honesty, and felt the necessity to increase its readership, as if it was the least I could do. Take it or leave it. Regardless of whether you are cynical of the content of this letter, it certainly forces to take a long hard look at ourselves, to re-evaluate the sincerity of our pledges of ‘democracy’ and ‘liberation’ we so fiercely pride ourselves on.
Words by Sophia Gore
Photo: The Telegraph
Visiting a contemporary art exhibition has always left me feeling slightly perplexed. As an art history student devoted to Symbolism and Post-Impressionism I don’t often feel inclined to explore the unchartered regions of contemporary art practice. Volunteering at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, however, has forced me to experience art on a whole different level. Being stuck for hours in one dark room while looking at a video slowed down so much that it seems like it’s never going to end truly changes your perception of what the term ‘art’ might mean.
Usually, people come into the galleries, glance about, stop at a video or two and then leave (the only exception seems to be Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne’s exhibition at Govanhill Baths which became a sanctuary for couples in love and stoners who spend hours on end in the bouncing castle known as Love Box). Contemporary art festivals seem as fast-paced as our everyday lives, governed by a schedule almost bursting at the seams. I’ve seen people who actually raced through the floors of the galleries as if they were hoping to win a prize for the most art objects seen in one day. What I discovered is that, on the contrary, art reveals itself to you slowly. If you’re forced to look at the exhibition for more than twenty minutes you begin to notice recurrent themes and contradictions; your mind creates a map of the gallery space, with the meanings lurking in the corners.
This is what happened to me in Charlotte Prodger’s rooms at McLellan Galleries. At first glance the space looks uninviting, deliberately made hard to navigate through by the artist. One day, I was standing in the smaller room feeling quite tired and uninterested. Progder’s voice hovered and echoed around me, recounting the names of Youtube users who have uploaded films of their pet bullterriers in a sort of ‘trance,’ which apparently is quite common to their breed. The show had its effect on me as well – I was mesmerized and almost did not wish to move. The format of the works is set against the content: something in Progder’s voice tells you to relax, but your body is physically unable to because of the claustrophobic arrangement of cables, TVs and speakers.
It is worth spending more time while at the shows because, ultimately, you’re not going there to see objects, or even art in general, but a person, the artist. Getting to know a person takes considerably more time than appreciating a 5-mintue video. In some ways or others, all four artists exhibited at McLellan Galleries reveal a lot about themselves in their respective shows. I had a chance to meet both Prodger and Avery Singer, whose monochromatic paintings occupy the central room upstairs. Prodger’s pedantic nature reveals itself in the care with which she arranged the cables and objects in the rooms. Singer’s shyness is concealed behind the scale of her works and also the impersonal technique she uses: she designs her works in a 3D modelling program called SketchUp and then transfers them onto the huge canvas. Hudinilson Jr’s show in the other room upstairs feels personal for other reasons; due to his recent death, the exhibition of his personal objects and collages preserved in his diaries indeed renders the room into a sort of a funereal shrine (if you look very closely, you can even see an unidentifiable hair stuck to one of the objects on the podium next to Hudinilson’s glittery name).
Whilst the Brazilian artist was primarily concerned with the body and its representation in art, Jordan Wolfson’s exhibition on the lower level, on the other hand, feels like a journey through the artist’s mind. Darkness envelops most of the rooms and strangely familiar sounds can be heard: yes, it is indeed Beyoncé’s ‘Sweet Dreams,’ only slowed down and made to sound as if it was ripped out from her throat by some hellish creatures. Like Prodger, Wolfson also invades the visitors’ privacy. You are forced to remove your shoes before watching Wolfson’s adventures as a gay punk in New York in Raspberry Poser. Then you go on to listen to a lover’s exchange in a room called by the volunteers ‘the kitchen,’ tucked away behind all the other rooms like an unwanted memory. Lyricism of some videos is shattered by vulgarity of others. It feels like the artist is staring at you through the eyes of the different personas he assumes in his videos, constantly judging you.
Time stands still in McLellan Galleries, a building which was abandoned for years and now reclaimed by the artist community. Having spent countless hours in its murky rooms I feel both compelled to return and slightly terrified of seeing the artworks which I know so well by now, and which seem like ghosts haunting me with questions I can’t answer.
Words by Natalia Masewicz
ART SCREEN – Celebrating Arts Documentaries
The BBC is proud to announce the details for a brand new arts documentary festival – Art Screen. Taking place as part of the Glasgow International Festival, Art Screen will showcase some of the world’s best arts documentary films and include highlights from the BBC archive.
Accessibility for students is a central to the aims of the festival, and full-time students will be able to access substantial discounts on ticket prices, as well as several free events.
The diverse four-day festival will take place in two of Glasgow’s renowned art spaces, the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Centre for Contemporary Arts from the 10th-13th April 2014. The programme will include screenings of documentaries on visual arts, architecture, music and photography alongside accompanying events and discussions featuring major international artists, filmmakers, and critics. Kirsty Wark and Tim Marlow will chair interviews and participate in panel discussions offering conversational sessions across the festival.
Art Screen will also include Arts in the Archive, a strand dedicated to the many hours of extraordinary arts footage in the BBC’s own archive. Arts in the Archive, screening at the CCA, will provide access to many hours of rarely seen footage, from throughout the BBC’s history.
Highlights of the festival include two world premieres which will be screening in the GFT; Our Glasgow and Facing up to Mackintosh.
More details about the festival, including the programme, can be found on Art Screen’s website
Recently voted one of DJ Magazine’s Top 5 Intimate Clubs in the world, it’s no wonder that Sub Club’s longest running resident night is receiving a lot of attention this month. In fact, the Saturday night ‘SubCulture’ is one of the longest running club nights in the world. Residents Harri and Domenic were spinning records to a sweaty crowd before you’d been pushed out your mother’s womb: that’s right, a whole damn twenty years. Well known to any Glasgow resident with a shade of self-respect, over the years Harri and Domenic have become more than just a club night… they are an integral part of the city itself.
So to mark the double decade since opening night almost to the day, Sub Club are kicking off the first Saturday of April 2014 in typical SubCulture style: a Residents Party with Harri and Domenic B2B all night. Over the past 20 years Sub Club’s Saturday night crowd has been greeted by the intrepid duo’s DJ booth alchemy; and their sheer passion is what paved the way for Sub Club to become the globally recognised bastion of the underground that it is today.
Of course, over this time Sub Club became a platform for presenting fresh local talent as well as hosting some of the biggest names in top quality house and techno. So in order to keep the celebrations going –and the hands hitting the ceiling – for the next few months, SubCulture are inviting back some old friends and introducing some new ones.
Following on from the official anniversary party on April 5th, Saturday’s will turn into a flurry of highlights from the SubCulture story. The series kicks off with the fearsome performer and French Kiss producer Lil’ Louis on April 12th. One of the most dynamic characters ever to grace the Subbie decks, he literally throws body and soul into everything he does, so standing still is not an option when this man gets on the case. Extra-specially, Louis is bringing along his own film crew to ensure the posterity of the event, promising some real surprises in typical Glasgow party spirit!
Building on that will be the legend that is DJ Harvey (Locussolus) on the 3rd of May, a pretty big deal as his first UK appearance of 2014 and his first in Scotland since 2001! As one of the most in demand DJ’s around the globe this night will be a unique opportunity to catch him in the intimacy of the Sub Club setting.
Rounding up the list of heavyweights at the end of May, in time for those post-exam celebrations or commiserations, New Jersey house hero Kerri Chandler will be back gracing the decks. Always bringing soul to his sets, Kerri is never shy of getting down and deep with his audience whether he’s thumping it out or lightening it up, and as a total perfectionist there are few to match him technically around the world.
But that’s not all –in between times Harri and Domenic will continue to mix it up with a vast array of artists lined up to keep you shuffling through the spring including an overdue visit by Sheffield house stalwart Chris Duckenfield of SWAG fame, a live set from Juju & Jordash and a much anticipated visit from Tama Sumo. Also look out for a surprise appearance from ÅME at one of the surprise parties in the offing.
As more events are expected to be announced over the coming weeks and months – and with some very special parties and one-off events already in the pipeline – it’ll be all eyes on that tiny red emblem to ensure you’re not the one who can’t say you were there for this month of historic events.
– Words, Katie Arthur
It has been some time since the rehearsal of the opening ceremony to the Olympic Games was shown to the Russian audience by Rossiya 1, as a last-minute attempt to whitewash any shortcomings of the real event. More recently, one of the western neighbouring countries of Ukraine was presented to be Czechoslovakia by the American MSNBC. Apart from evoking feelings of nostalgia, or more likely confusion, in those few Czechs and Slovaks that follow American Media, these two supposedly unrelated cases suggest how the truth is portrayed in the media. However, in case of the current situation in Ukraine, the bets are much higher. This “game of facts and interpretations” is especially dominant in two contrasting Media movements; the pro-Russian and pro-Western. The Russia Today, state-owned Russian English-language news channel, represents the former while the representative of the pro-American can be the CNN. These two media outlets seem not to be able to find a common ground on neither the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government, nor the authenticity of the Crimean referendum, while the Western European bastions of journalism such as the BBC, at least attempt to maintain the middle ground in the coverage of this international crisis.
Firstly, CNN and Russia Today have not been able to agree on finding the right adjective to describe the transitional Ukrainian government. CNN has mostly stuck to the term “new government”, which largely avoids any large questions concerning its legitimacy. In contrast however, Russia Today has creatively adapted the description of a “coup-imposed government”, which clearly underlines the unconstitutional overthrow of Yanukovych’s regime in Kiev. CNN and Russia Today have also expressed contrasting views on the legitimacy of the Crimean referendum. While the latter argues in its article, “Putin: Crimeans expressed their will in full accordance with international law”, exactly what the title suggests, the CNN´s article, “Crimea´s vote: Was it legal?”, counter by saying that it was against the constitution of Ukraine. However, neither of them completely ignores the opposite argument. Instead, they show favour of one extreme viewpoint so that the unaware reader would “swallow the bait” of prescriptive statements. The audience in the both cases could enter the debate with a feeling of objectivity but is indirectly encouraged towards one perspective. In the pro-Western article, this is mostly manifested with a suggestion of the manipulation in the referendum voting. Naturally, this scenario was rejected by Russia Today. However, this cannot be seen as a complete surprise since the latter openly claims to be bringing “the Russian view on global news”.
On the other hand, a more favourable attempt of finding a middle ground can be seen in BBC. In particular, two of their articles, “Analysis: Why Russia´s Crimea move fails legal test” and “Ukraine Crisis: Does Russia have a case?” follow the right direction. The former is an analysis of the Russian intervention from the perspective of the international law by Marc Weller, Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge, while the latter is trying to look at the Crimea crisis from the perspective of Kremlin. Furthermore, the article, “Is Crimea´s referendum legal?”, discusses the legitimacy of the referendum in the same spirit. Even though neither of them is a pro-Russian article, which no one can expect them to be, they seem to be at least solid attempts for objectivity.
The moral we should take from the following variations on truth is that neither the current crisis in Ukraine nor the perspective of the Media that write about can be considered de facto one-sided. Both CNN and Russia Today are guilty of trying to present a subjective version of events regarding Ukraine and Crimea, instead of trying to find establish an objective medium. However, it is important to emphasise that none of them was necessarily lying. No one expects them to be purely factual on the expense of the readability and domestic constraints, although that by itself is not an excuse to remain highly interpretive at the expense of the journalistic content. The balance was generally achieved in the pieces by BBC mentioned above. Consequently, what is presented in the media lies mostly somewhere between the lie and the truth, therefore when trying to make a picture not just about the current situation in Ukraine, it is always essential to consult a variety of sources, while at the same time remaining vigilant and critical.
words by Jakub Csabay
The Art School sparkled with excitement on the 4th of March, hosting their annual fashion show for 3rd year students at GSA. When everyone took seats, the DJ started playing music and the side lights on the catwalk started flashing. The music was so intense, our hearts started to harmonise with the bass. When the first model stepped on the catwalk, the whole picture became complete and the room filled with beauty.
The show took off with 2nd year fashion students’ creations: white shirts, jeans, fur coats and black dresses, and 3rd year students’ tailoring works. These students used different sources of inspiration to create their pieces. Some were influenced by Victoria Beckham, some were inspired by the architecture of Glasgow and others looked back into history to apply the ideas in a modern way. These items are very wearable, yet unique. A white shirt and jeans are pieces everyone needs in their wardrobes, but these young, talented designers created silhouettes that make these everyday pieces outstanding.
The other part of the show contained 25 mini collections – 3 outfits – from 25 3rd year students, studying fashion or textile design. They created different sets, concentrating on embroidery, knit, print, weave or fashion design. The students were given a specific source of inspiration. All designs had use lace as an inspiration, and they each category got a country and culture to investigate. Print used East and West Africa (Maasai and Masquerade); knit concentrated on Peru and Ecuador; weave looked into Palestine’s thobe traditions; embroidery based its design on Romania; and fashion design explored Inuit culture (Yupik, Eskimo, Inupiat).What amazes me is the fact that the categories all had the same task given, but the collections could not be different. The designers’ personalities shine through their collections, their creativity and talent were awarded with great applause and sighs of amazement at the show.
To pick a few (it is really hard though); Jane Maguire took inspiration from the Inuit culture’s children’s wear and the lace in children’s collars, whilst Chris McBurney used the Inuit Myths of the Quallupilluk (child catcher) as a basis of his designs. That explains the babies in the models’ hands. I was honestly trying to figure out what is the designer trying to express with those. Now I know, and it makes more sense than I expected. This is what I call art.
Ciaran Moore’s menswear print project was inspired by maps of Nairobi. What an interesting thing to use in fashion design! He created futuristic and modern graphic print from the street formation, creating a lace like structure from them. He was using African tunics as a basis for his silhouettes, which in hand with the prints gives a very unique and modern piece of art.
One of my favourites was Abigal Jubb’s collection with the combination of brown, rich texture and the romantic lace, inspired by the array of layers Inuit people wear and luxurious renaissance lace. The seemingly two very different theme lead to this feminine, individual design.
GSA fashion show was sponsored by Dr. Martens, providing shoes for 10 students’ collections. They supported the show last year as well, and will continue with this sponsorship in the following years. Mandors fabric and textile company also has its long relationship with GSA fashion show, making it possible to stage such an incredible art performance. Thank you to them for making the event possible!
See you next year, future fashion gurus!
Words and Photographs by Zsofia Dobak
With tensions mounting in Ukraine, I spoke to Virginia Cartwright, a US Peace Corps volunteer who had been living in Okhtyrka, a small city in eastern Ukraine, where she was teaching English in a local school. The Peace Corps is a US government initiative, which aims to promote peace through helping to meet the needs of countries around the world for trained men and women to share their skills and to promote mutual cultural understanding between the USA and those countries. Volunteers work in a variety of sectors including education, health and the environment. Ukraine was the country with the largest number of Peace Corps Volunteers, until the decision was made to evacuate all volunteers back to the USA. I spoke with Virginia shortly after she arrived home in North Carolina, to ask her about readjusting to life in America, her experiences with Ukrainian culture and about the current political turmoil.
How did you find out that you were being evacuated and what was the process of evacuation like?
They have three different stages of alert. At first back in November they just told us to be aware of what was going on around us, not to be an obnoxious American and to try to keep a low profile. When the protests started getting larger they put us on the next stage which is called ‘Stand Fast’ this meant we were told to stay in our cities and we weren’t allowed to travel to the capital. Then there was that terrible Wednesday when 90-something people were killed. Not long after that we went to ‘Consolidation’. That meant all the Peace Corps Volunteers in one oblast (an equivalent of a county), had to go to one central location so that if we did have to evacuate we would all be together. We found out we were going to be evacuated by email. We were all crowded around the laptop and everyone was crying because we knew we weren’t going to get the chance to say goodbye to our Ukrainian friends and colleagues in person, but we also weren’t allowed to tell anyone we were leaving, because of security issues. After we arrived in DC we were allowed to call people so I have talked to a few people and its sad and they’ve been crying. They understand why we had to leave but it was just really sudden. Technically, I finished my service back in September but I decided to extend it to finish the project I had been working on, so I had been in Ukraine for two and a half years.
That sounds quite traumatic to be torn away from your life there so abruptly. What has it been like coming back to the States? When was the last time you were there?
The last time was when I left, back in September 2011. So its been really overwhelming. Especially the amount of choice. Its amazing all the options that are available to me. I went to the grocery store yesterday and nearly had a panic attack in the cereal aisle because there are 900 different types of cereal, its a little excessive to be totally honest. In our kitchen we have three refrigerators full of food; I’m used to this tiny Soviet refrigerator with maybe three eggs and some carrots and my family here have a two year supply of food at our fingertips. My family are having to teach me how to do things again, because I don’t know how to use the TV, I don’t remember how to drive a car, crazy stuff! I was supposed to come home in June, so this has pushed everything forward and I’ve just been thrown back into America. Mentally I feel like I wasn’t quite prepared for it but I’m getting there.
What was it like when you first arrived in Ukraine? As an American how were you received there?
When I first got to Ukraine I had a three month training period, where I had Ukrainian language lessons for 5 or 6 hours a day and cross cultural sessions about Ukrainian traditions and how to behave, and technical sessions about teaching English to Ukrainians. When I first arrived at my school all the teachers were gathered in the teacher’s room. Ukrainians have a tradition of giving a beautiful braided loaf of bread with a bowl of salt for guests. You’re supposed to rip off a piece of the bread and dip it in the salt and thats the first step of being integrated into the community. In general most people were just curious why this crazy American girl was in their school. The most frequently asked question was ‘Why would you leave America to come here?’ Because for most of them their dream is to leave Ukraine, even for a bordering country that would be life changing for them. For me to leave America, this dream land for them, to come live in Ukraine they just can’t fathom why anyone would want do that.
You were saying you had to learn about the culture and the traditions, what were the hardest things to adjust to?
The hardest thing for me to adjust to, culturally, was the emotion in Ukraine. They are very much ‘brick-faced’; you do not smile at strangers and if you do they look at you like you’re crazy. That was hard for me because I’m an outgoing, smiley person. Ukrainians have this proverb that to become friends with someone you have to eat 16 kilos of salt together, so it alludes to how long you have to spend with someone before they consider you part of their inner circle. It takes years for that to happen. For me, I was now just being integrated in this inner circle with my Ukrainian friends, whereas in America or in the UK, you could meet someone, the next day you could have lunch together and pretty soon you would consider yourselves friends. In Ukraine its very different.
Another thing is as much alcohol as Ukrainians do drink, they are never really drunk. So its a little bit different from both America and Scotland! I met a lot of Ukrainians who did not drink at all which shocked me. I think most people when they think of Russia and Ukraine they think vodka! Its true there is a lot of vodka and it is often cheaper than water, but women do not drink vodka. Its usually only men. Women drink wine or cognac. A lot of young people don’t drink because they think of themselves as athletes. So that was interesting to cross off one of the stereotypes.
What will you miss most about living in Ukraine?
There are a lot of things because I was there for two and a half years it became my home. So I will miss my daily routine, like I woke up at the same time everyday, I would get up and boil water for my shower and my coffee. It was hard but you get used to it and by the end it was completely normal. Now being home I can just turn on the faucet and hot water comes out, and I can drink water that comes out the tap and I don’t have to boil it first and wait for it to cool down, its crazy! I will miss the food, Ukrainian food is very good. My first winter there I gained a lot of weight because I didn’t want to go out in -30 temperatures and I just ate all this delicious food. I will miss my students and colleagues, they were the people I interacted with on a daily basis, who taught me about the culture and invited me into their homes. Also I really miss hearing the language. I realise now being back in America how much I really liked using my Ukrainian everyday and I have this fear now that I will forget it.
So how is your Ukrainian now? Because you didn’t speak any when you arrived, is that right?
Yeah, that’s right. Its pretty good, I can explain anything I need to, but it was a little bit difficult because I learned the Ukrainian language, which is usually spoken in the western regions and Russian is spoken in the east. But where I lived, which is the north east, they speak a mix of Russian and Ukrainian so I would only understand half of conversations. I had to be very specific with people and say ‘I speak Ukrainian, can you use as many Ukrainian words as possible and leave out the Russian?’ People who knew me were very good about it. Some people in the East don’t speak Ukrainian at all and I would try to speak to them and they would have no idea what I was saying. Honestly Russian probably would be more useful on a global scale but Ukrainian is beautiful.
Turning to the political situation, do you know anyone in Kiev? What can you tell me about what has been happening there?
Some of my students from the last two years have left school and gone to university in Kiev. They’ve been sending me photos and updates on whats going on, which has been amazing to hear about what is happening from the inside but I also worry about them because its dangerous. Of course, this all started back in November with Yanukovych’s decision not to strengthen ties with the EU. I think that’s when Ukrainians realised ‘we can do something about this, there are enough of us that feel strongly about this decision that maybe we can make a change.’ They had the Orange Revolution back in 2004 but this is the first time they have really fought for independence, their freedom. So they are out there protesting and building this small city within Kiev. They have stations set up to cook borscht, they have hospitals and post offices, they built walls with tyres and ice. The creativity of these people astounds me. Young people my age, 25 or 26, they’ve been saying ‘I’m not doing this for me, I might die because of these protests, but I’m doing this for the future of my country.’
At first the international press was focused only on the protests in Kiev; now attention is turning to the protests in Crimea, and the potential Russian invasion. What is the situation like in the Sumy region?
In Okhtyrka, my town, there weren’t any protests but it was a very hot topic and everyday that I would come into school in the teacher’s lounge everyone would hotly debating it. The largest town in our oblast was Sumy and there were some protests there, pro-Maidan and other groups, but it never got violent so we were lucky. There was nothing like on the scale of Kiev.
You said that people in the Sumy region speak a mixture of Ukrainian and Russian, how does that impact on their sense of national identity and their politics? Are people there pro-EU or do they want to keep close ties with Russia like the majority of the Crimean people seem to want?
In my region, even though Russian was often spoken, many of the people wanted to be integrated with the EU, they did not want to be a part of Russia. Its a generational gap, the older people who had grown up under the Soviet Union saw that as a time of stability and so they would not mind so much being a part of Russia; not that they want that but if it happened they wouldn’t be out in the streets protesting. In general everyone was extremely upset about Yanukovych’s decision not to strengthen ties with the EU. People were very emotional about it, they were crying because they realise that if Ukraine doesn’t get its act together and it becomes a part of Russia again, they might not have another chance for democracy.
With the developments in the Crimea and Putin getting approval to send troops into the region, President Obama has said that there will be ‘consequences’ for any invasion. How do you feel about potential US involvement in the crisis?
That’s a really hard question. It does affect me directly because everyone I know there knows that I’m American and, of course, they are all glued to the news and I wouldn’t want there to be anti-American sentiment. It worries me a little bit but I also know that Ukraine does need help so if America was doing something positive that would be wonderful but I don’t really think it would be a good idea to send in troops.
What are your personal hopes for the future of Ukraine?
I hope that once the elections are held and maybe the government becomes a bit more stable then hopefully this east-west split can be mended. Right now, the government doesn’t even know if what its doing is constitutional, its a huge constitutional crisis. All these different groups are splitting off, so of course there’s going to be this tension between the east and the west because historically the people that western Ukraine admire are the people eastern Ukraine hate. There needs to be a solid leader who can unite both parts of the country. They need to find something to bring them together and hopefully that would eliminate any possibility of a civil war. I would like to see Ukraine remain one country. Its hard for me not to sit in front of my computer all day refreshing the news. But I have to remember that I’m not in Ukraine any more and I need to start adjusting back to life here.
Interview by Iona Peddie
Here are the first few entires in a regular street style column by Zsofia Dobak, the looks can also be found on her blog
Samantha and Natalie
Samantha (19) and Natalie (20) are friends, both in their 3rd years, studying psychology at the University of Glasgow. Samantha (on the right) likes to try new things a lot with fashion, she loves patterns and charity/vintage shops. Natalie (on the left) likes to shop at Topshop and Zara and gets her fashion inspiration mostly from just seeing what other people on the street are wearing. She really likes black clothes. I met the girls in the qmu café and as they both looked stunning, I had an easy job – ask them both if they would be okay if I took a photo of them.
Samantha’s outfit catches the eye with the short checked skirt and short Jack Daniels sweater. I like how it’s smart with the skirt and the shirt’s collar showing but casual (and hot – let’s just say it as it is) with the sweater and boots. That’s kind of an outfit that could be an everyday one but can also be perfect for going to a concert for example (a rock concert to be specific, as that is what comes to my mind when I look at this red-black combination with these boots – so chic!). Her glasses and watch are completing the look. If you are trying to copy her style, I think you can easily go with a tartan pleated skirt.
Natalie also chose a red-black combination, but with a completely different style. Her oversize black coat is my favourite and looks gorgeous on her. However, it is a tricky piece, as it can either make you look bigger than you are or might as well hide what it has to hide, depending on the particular coat’s tailoring. So it can be for every body shape, you just have to find the type that looks best on you. Natalie definitely found it! She broke up the all black with a bright red top (you can go with any colour really, any shades of red is fine for example, but you can combine it with your favourite colour, just make sure it pops out of the blacks), which is a perfect choice, and the necklace she is wearing with it is the icing on the cake. It really is in fashion. If you get a similar chunky chain necklace you can combine it with many other outfits you already have.
Anna is in her final year at the The University of Glasgow. She is doing theatre studies. She loves vintage style, so often shops in vintage boutiques. She also likes Urban Outfitters and Topshop. She absolutely loves scarves!
What I love about her outfit is how she stands out in the crowd with these bright colours. Her coat is a statement piece, which she combined with a floral patterned big scarf (a risky but really well played combination here, as the edges of the scarf are exactly the same blue as her coat. If you are not sure that the two blue shades are a perfect match, you should rather pick a scarf in a completely different colour), and classic black Oxford shoes. If you think you would be cold in Oxfords, you could just wear boots instead for a similar combination. As she is wearing a skirt underneath which is not showing, the coat itself looks like a dress! Great trick for every girl, makes the look very feminine yet it is practical if worn with thick thights. You won’t get cold, but can still look very girly. I also loved the way she has done her hair with another silky scarf, matching with her other scarf’s floral print and her nails. And last but not least, her smile is her best accessory!
Elvis is in his second year at the University of Glasgow, studying politics and business. He works at Hugo Boss (check that bag out!), and likes to shop at Zara. He’s got style.
What I like about his outfit – let me think – is everything. It’s perfect as it is. I just love shirts on guys, gives such a smart look compared to a simple T-shirt. And he showed it is cool to button up your shirt. Many guys just won’t do that, I mostly see them around wearing shirts unbuttoned at the neck. Both ways are equally good.
I quite liked his outfit with the scarf on as well, but he thought it’d look better without on the photos. Well, I can’t argue with someone so stylish!
Shoes-belt-bag combo flawless, what else can I say? That Hugo Boss bag was my favourite! I also like dark coloured leather satchels on men. And obviously, because I mentioned that the whole outfit is just perfect, I must also like the coat. Simple as that. Nothing more to say. Guys, if you need any advice on men’s fashion, I am sure Elvis would be there to help, as he was so kind and patient with the biggest smile.
But be prepared to face this expression if you ask a very stupid question (I honestly don’t know why I deserved it, maybe he was aware it would make a great shot! I hope so…).
Back at the end of January, I went along to the launch of Gabriella Marcella’s ‘Super Signs’ at the Arches; an exhibition inspired by the zodiac, showcasing a series of 12 prints and a video installation of Marcella’s take on the symbols of the zodiac. These prints were incredibly lively compositions, vibrant with colours and shapes. I caught up with her to ask her a few questions about the exhibition, the ideas behind the images, and her work.
What is the inspiration behind these beautiful, colourful pieces?
Well, apart from the obvious influence and inspiration I’ve drawn from the zodiac, I’ve been really interested in symbolism and the different symbols you come across pretty much everywhere. I guess the prints in this exhibition are almost an immediate visual reaction of the symbols from the horoscope. I don’t normally do things for pleasure as, in order to actually make any money, I have to unfortunately surrender to making work for more commercial purposes.
What materials did you use to process these images?
These images were processed digitally and made through screen printing in my studio. I was awarded the Deutschbank Award after I graduated, which was a grant that helped me set up my own studio, meaning that I can design and print all of my own things.
Could you tell us a bit more about the other projects you’ve been involved in prior to ‘Super Signs’?
I was actually involved with a really great project in the summer of 2011. I had the exciting opportunity to go to Philadelphia in the US to work as a design intern, designing the graphics for carrier bags for Urban Outfitters which were distributed all over the country. It was such an amazing project, I had a lot of fun working on it.
Do you have any projects coming up later this year?
I try to engage in personal projects every month, in order to keep myself busy. I’m actually hopefully going to be working on a clothing range in Edinburgh quite soon, with textile and fashion designer Emily Millichip. We will be working with fabrics, where I’ll be designing the patterns and Emily will be creating the outfits and pieces.
Gabriella, 23, is from Edinburgh, and graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 2012. She currently runs the Risograph Print & Design studio Risotto in Glasgow, and is available for working on and producing promotional material. Find out more about Risotto, or contact Gabriella, through their website or blog, or on Facebook.
– Words and Interview, Leila Khoshoie
What strange secret made rich, beautiful, tempestuous Bella Baxter irresistible to the poor Scottish medical student Archie McCandless? Was it her myseterious origin in the home of his monstrous friend Godwin Baxter, the genius whose voice could perforate eardrums? This story of true love and scientific daring whirls the reader from the private operating-threatre of late Victorian Glasgow through aristocratic casinos, low-life Alexandria and a Parisian bordello, reaching an interrupted climax in a Scottish church.
What strange secret made beautiful, tempestuous, Texan, Katie Ryder irrestible to the English literature student Jakob Hofmann. Was it her mysterious origin in the USA? This story of true love and scientific daring whirls from the gurning heights of Glasogw’s SW3 to the pastures of the Botanics and Kelvingrove, slurping half ‘n’ halfs in the Arlington and dunking baguettes in Naked Soup.
Veteran Romantic Jakob Hofman shares his 7 tips for the couple trying to make it long distance:
1) Skype Sex
Urban Dictionary calls it: (noun) the act of performing sexual intercourse, acts, or favours using skype including, but not limited to the following: stripping, masturbating, dirty talk, licking the camera, licking anything, food sex, inserting objects into body orifices.
We say: if you know a couple living apart you know a couple who spend a night or two a week making sweaty, pixelated one handed love to themselves. Embrace it. Open some wine and see if you can get into it. Dim the lights, find your best angles, and prepare for the crushing loneliness that accompanies an E-climax. Before long the metallic tinkle of an incoming Skype call will have a positively Pavlovian effect on you. And be assured, we all do it.
2) Be Resourceful.
Crossing Canada for the long weekend can be an exhaustive endeavour for the time poor and generally poor romantic abroad. Between the monopolised Canadian flights at $300 (£180) a pop and the fifteen hour Greyhound (Megabus), more conventional ways of travel might seem unattainable. Consider instead posting on Craigslist (GumTree) asking for a ride.
Be warned- this modus operandi isn’t for the faint hearted or unarmed. The only vetting process to post or reply on Craigslist is access to something than can access the internet. A car can seem like a very small, steel, speedy box once a confirmed nutter gets behind the wheel.
3) Adopt a Mentor/Buddy system.
The internet (I’m looking at you eHow, Buzzfeed) is useless for advice; Bunch of monkeys on typewriters telling you to make eye contact and spellcheck your CV. Instead locate and adhere to a couple who’ve run the long distance gauntlet and come up smiling. They’ll know the fears, insecurities, likely catalysts for loneliness, and tricks. Try your local immigration detention centre, prison, or oil rig.
Failing this, read a book about love long distance. You might feel alone in your halls or flat, but the bookshops of Glasgow are packed with lovers kept cruelly apart. Try Heloise and Abelard, where better to start than the letters of a castrated 12th century monk to the scholar turned nun he seduced and impregnated?
4) The Man on the Ground
A you-positive friend of flatmate is an essential tool in the arsenal of the Long Distance Romantic. Planning to surprise your loved one with the time honoured Naked Cake Jump routine? You’ll need a set of keys beneath the mat and half a dozen eggs picked up. Have an 8 hour window to fill while your SO is at an unshirkable shift? You’ll probably want someone you can have a few beers with in her city.
5) Keep it off Facebook.
The Digital Wedding Ring of a relationship status is invaluable to indicate takenness and being uninterested. Leave the Social Network side of your relationship there. You check in at JFK, you check in at O’ Hare, you wake up at DFW. Nobody wants to see it. A youtube link to a song we can ALL enjoy? Fine. A genuinely hilarious photo? Acceptable. A status telling your 748 “friends” it’s been a year? Revolting. A cutesy faux arguement splayed across the ether like a petulant Jackson Pollock? Nauseating.
#PDA #Tacky #Notspecifictolongdistancebutgoodtogetoffmychest #Youknowwhoyouare
6) Because we’re better than you- and we know it.
Hygiene/grooming aside, there are few upshots to seeing the love of your life once a month. Make one of them the legitimate arrogance that you can make it work transatlatically. Don’t be bitter that your pals get to see one another every single day- just know that what you’re in is…better.
“Oh so your girlfriend ALSO studies medicine and lives just the other side of Byres Rd? Tell me more about how she’s The One”
You know its meant to be when the dream is same same citizenship and everything is striving to keep you apart. Stay strong. Oh and don’t piss away the snatches of time you find to spend together.
Recently we told you about People & Planet’s plans for Go Green Week, and touched on the idea of fossil fuel divestment, which had been called for by students at the University of Edinburgh. And now Glasgow’s students are getting involved too, with the Glasgow University Climate Action (GUCA) Society working on a campaign to ask the University of Glasgow to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
Currently, the University has around £19 million invested in fossil fuel companies, which are contributing to climate change by unearthing more fossil fuels than we can afford to burn. Those companies include Shell and BP, which not only have a long record of environmental and human rights abuses, but are also involved in dangerous Arctic drilling and expanding the tar sands in Alberta, Canada.
The members of GUCA think the University should be focused on building a better future for its students, but an investment in carbon is an investment in climate change. For this reason, they are calling on the University to recognise the seriousness of climate change by selling its holdings in these companies.
If you agree with GUCA, and want to show your support, sign their petition here
There will also be a panel discussion on the 24th of February at 6pm in the Boyd Orr LT 2 for anyone who is interested in gaining more information on the issue. More information on the event’s Facebook.
This is the first in a series of reviews of classic films by Mina Kirkova
Centred on the life and family of Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp), this is a film about the important things in life and how people tackle the difficulties that life presents them with. A film about travelling a long distance, without actually going anywhere, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape shows multiple ways of living and all the ways in which not living life to the fullest will get you nowhere. The character of Gilbert Grape starts and ends the film with a framing voiceover in which he talks about his life. Simple words and simple sentences, this voiceover almost has you believe that Gilbert’s life is actually a pretty straightforward and easy one. This is, of course, not the case, and soon enough the viewer is presented in a subtle and patient way with “what’s eating Gilbert Grape”. He introduces the small town of Endora and states that there’s nothing much that could ever happen in a town like this. The film goes on to show us that the little things are actually the big things, and that a small town can carry lots of stories in its heart. Endora is a place where most people know each other and the opening of a fast food chain restaurant seems to be a big event. Surrounded by people he loves and cares about, Gilbert Grape is part of this small town holiday, whilst at the same time he isn’t.
Playing Arnie, the autistic brother of the protagonist, Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting is marvellous; he got his first (widely discussed) Oscar nomination for this particular film. Gilbert takes care of Arnie on behalf of his overweight mother, who suffers from severe depression, having been previously abandoned by her husband. Arnie’s disability combined with kindness are beautifully expressed through his constant desire to climb the town’s water tower until he goes as high as he can possibly get. Arnie’s character is the deep breath of honesty in the Grape family and he is everybody’s weakness. Gilbert, his sisters, and their mother all go to their limits when it comes to Arnie and he loves them sincerely for everything they do for him. The film slowly builds up to Arnie’s eighteenth birthday – a more than happy day for his friends and family, as he was not expected to live to more than ten years old. This day of celebration holds many emotions and implications for the Grape family, but it seems to end on a note of acceptance and understanding. Its exploration of the difficult issues surrounding taking care of a child with a disability, and having to grow up without a father figure for guidance, is one of the most captivating facets of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. This is a film that doesn’t quite have a catch, but it has something bigger, something that is definitely not going to let you go until the end of the film – the portrayal of the warmth of human relationships.
Although most of the time consumed by his love and dedication to his family, Gilbert is touched by romantic love when he least expects it. As important emotions in relationships go, love is probably number one on the list, and it is given the attention it needs in this story too. Gilbert’s odd, but instant connection with travelling girl Becky confuses him and makes him question the things that he has valued most in life until he met her. The extent to which his intuition makes him act in the interest of love give a delightful outline to his love for Becky. Gilbert seems to get from Becky what he can’t get anywhere else, and happiness naturally comes hand in hand with the revelation that she is willing to be kind and understanding with the family that he more or less takes care of.
Going through so much, Johnny Depp’s Gilbert comes to terms with what life has to offer, along with the fact that these things are not often served on a silver platter. Gilbert Grape has to accept the people he loves through family ties for who they are, and to understand why is it that he loves them, so that he can be happy with the person that he chooses to love. He makes a journey in this film and it’s as beautiful and sad as it is through and through fulfilling – for Gilbert and for Hallstrom’s audience.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a classics of recent film history, simple, but thought-provoking, exemplifying how small things make a world of a difference to everyone. It is one of those films that do not have complicated, twisting plot, but in it there’s something pleasing for all of the senses. It leaves the spectator smiling. The film was instantly accepted by critics for the simple pleasures it gives to the viewer. Such a movie is always as topical as it was when it first came out. It does not go out of date and changing perspectives do not alter the emotional response it inevitably provokes. You should give Gilbert Grape another watch.
Sex, Death, and Sarah Lucas:
a short review of an exhibition’s preview.
Among the words most commonly used to describe Sarah Lucas’s practice is, probably, ‘shock’. Indeed, on attending the opening of the artist’s retrospective at the Tramway last week, shock was my initial reaction too – the problem is, I wasn’t really shocked for the expected reasons.
Lucas (b. 1962) is an artist who, emerging as one of the key figures of the Young British Artists group, gained significance in the 1990s and is now well known for critiquing many of the stereotypes around gender and sexuality through her provocative representations of the body. Yet, surrounded as my friends and I were by phallic representations, I did not once think of sex, of “masculine clichés,” or of the issue of cultural stereotyping. What was it then that shocked me? It was precisely the inability to be shocked, my very lack of feeling.
One way to explain this response would be to acknowledge that we are today experiencing a cultural moment very different from that of Lucas’s emergence, so sexual images cannot be as shocking. However, it seems to me that to argue this would be to enter the limitless conversation on whether problems such as sexism are indeed now resolved, of whether women and men are now treated as equals, and the list goes on. What is more, it was not that those who attended the opening (including myself) did not appear touched by the artist’s themes that I thought was problematic, but that we were actually enjoying ourselves. In light of this, Lucas’s gigantic masturbating hand (the first thing to catch your eye as you enter the gallery), endlessly moving up and down as it was, appeared to me to speak not about sex or masculinity, but of the situation of contemporary art; rather than a comment on wanking, it struck me as itself an artwank.
As Robert Heinlein noted in his Stranger in a Strange Land, more like love than like masturbation, art is an experience which prescribes two positions, the artist and the perceiver, and it is through the communication of the two that artworks have a life. In much of today’s art-viewing, however, engaging is of secondary importance; simply by being close to the art of some “known” artist, us visitors get to feel significant, complicated, intellectual – and nowhere is this self-pleasuring more apparent, than when a group of ‘artsy’ people stand drinking wine next to Lucas’s very blunt and very mastrurbating hand. So, although one could say that I am, here, focusing on the ‘sex’ part of the exhibition – for there was also a ‘death’ part, the two themes being separated by a diagonal wall in the middle of the gallery space – the way I see it, the two are not in juxtaposition. In point of fact, take away the pleasure and masturbation becomes all about death; it is no longer (pro)creative, it hints at nothingness.
To conclude, what I am trying to say is not that Lucas’s art is not about what it depicts but rather that, in her cynical approach, the artist can be seen at Tramway to also speak of the art world’s own exhaustion, and of its inability to give back what it takes from art.
Sarah Lucas’ retrospective is running at Tramway until 16 March 2014